Day 85 of the Shoe Challenge – Black & White? When can we fade to grey?


Zoe Wittner Black & White "Bullet" Platform Pumps


It’s 5.00 pm ish on a Saturday afternoon in Sydney and 7.30 am in Glasgow.

Or so Sarah tells me when she phones. She hasn’t been been to bed yet and has been up listening to music, posting YouTube videos on her Facebook wall and feeling a bit nostalgic.

We have a  running joke that she always calls at 3.00 am. “I’m knackered” she says.

So am I” I say.

Lack of sleep can be due to so many things. In my case,  the usual suspect is the Minx who has unilaterally given up her daytime nap with the repercussion that she wakes up at 11 pm every night and wails piteously before zombie walking into the living room and clambering on my husband. In Sarah’s case it is because she has a head buzzing full of song ideas and business ideas. We met when we were both teaching in the same dull grey Sighthill building a long, LONG time ago.

Sarah is exactly one day older than me, single with no children and tells me quite justifiably that I should count my children as blessings. She has an immaculate penthouse flat in Glasgow with 180 degree views of the Clyde and no child mess. I am envious.

Have you heard this?” she asks and repeatedly hits the volume button on her computer singing along in that easy, natural singing voice of hers to something light and poppy – Empire of the Sun – Walking on a Dream.

I notice from her Facebook photos that Sarah’s hair has not even the slightest hint of grey. In many ways she looks younger than she did ten years ago. Her gran had dark brown hair with no evidence of silver into her nineties.   This has always intrigued me since I have been covering my white hair since I was 17 years old.

There was one period of time (when I worked for Bastard & Ratshit WS) when I didn’t colour my hair. But then at that point in my life I was so stressed and discombobulated at work, I used to drink a litre of red wine just to get to sleep at night.  One of the partners there told me that my grey hair was distinguished and gave me gravitas. I was 26 years old.

You may have noticed that going silver has become a bit of a mark of distinction among twenty something celebrities these days.

Pixie Geldof has elfin feautures and her dyed grey hair makes her look a bit like an Beardsley-esque satyr.

Lady Gaga recently featured on the September 2010 cover of Vanity Fair magazine with a granny lavender rinse

There’s a lot of it about.

The only thing that I should mention is that those who are flaunting the grey hair are in their twenties. Like Halle Berry as Storm in the X Men

or Meryl Streep in the Devil Wears Prada

Unfortunately these grey locks are entirely for Hollywood show.

The real world is not so accepting of grey hair. I know – I have been surfing the edge between black and white for 20 years. “When” I ask myself and my husband frequently “can I just get old and forget about the hair colouring?

The answer would seem to be – NEVER.

It seems grotesquely unfair that men can become silver foxes and yet women must continue to perpetuate an ever more undignified image of youth and lack of grey.

White hair on a young person is unusual and eye catching but has the effect of enhancing that person’s youth.  Funnily enough, when I asked hairdressers about going white in my twenties they all shook their heads. Now I am faced with expensive and timeconsuming processes to slowly bring out the grey in a subtle but not blatantly unrealistic fashion.  This is insane, I think every so often, my mother was silver haired in her forties, why am I doing this to myself?

The answer is of course, once you get into your forties and beyond the way of grey becomes harder to navigate. If you are an older gentleman with a good head of thick steel grey to white hair it is easy. You, my friend, are a silver fox. There is even a blog Silver Feast dedicated to your trichological charms.

There is some argument as to whether or not the term silver fox is male gender specific or gender neutral.  If you use Google to search ‘silver fox hair’ the first three persons depicted in the images are male, the third is Jamie Lee Curtis.



What’s not to love about Jamie Lee Curtis? I mean, I didn’t love her in Trading Places when the guy I was in love with then was sitting next ne to  waxing lyrical about her perfect breasts all through the film and for weeks afterwards



but that was his fault, not hers right?

After years of holding a bit of a grudge, I finally forgave her for freely, openly and laughingly admitted that the gravity defying arse that she displayed in the film Perfect



was not been the product of exercise alone.  As soon as she stopped getting liposuction and exercising excessively she started to look – normal.



As the UK Telegraph reported in 2002, she broke the unwritten unwritten Hollywood rule yesterday by saying that the movie industry’s nip-and-tuck culture of eternal youth did not work and insisted on having her photo taken in unflattering knickers, sports bra top and no make up.

She doesn’t look like a fembot anymore but is this a bad thing? Maybe we just are not that accepting of women getting old.  I can’t for the life of me determine why this is.

Kristen McMenanamy still looks as stunning as ever, in her slightly off the wall way, with silver hair.

And I have never had any trouble seeing Debbie Harry transition from punk sex goddess

to scary headmistress of a small girl’s private school

(The cheekbones could still etch glass after all, so surely the hair colour is irrelevant?)

It seems to me that if you are a female star you have two choices – go down the character route in which case it is irrelevant if you get older, greyer and larger or fight the ghost of christmas future to the death every day in the gym and every fortnight in the hairdressers. Which leaves the rest of us non-star people in a bit of a bind really doesn’t it?


Zoe Wittner - Black & White Bullet Pumps


So here is my entirely selfish question. Should I:

(a) go slowly and surely more blonde with an ever escalating number of highlights;

(b) continue to dye it successively lighter shades; or

(c)  go the expensive weaving multi coloured low lights through my silvery strands route?

When dear reader, can I dare to get old?

26 thoughts on “Day 85 of the Shoe Challenge – Black & White? When can we fade to grey?

  1. Never. It’s thoroughly over-rated. Just keep it the way it is and let everyone guess.

    Love “Bastard & Ratshit WS” by the way!

  2. Will I get in trouble if I say that Jamie Lee Curtis has the best boobs I’ve ever seen?
    I would suggest to quit the bleaches & dyes ASAP. My great grandmother & step grandmother went grey naturally (from early 40s) & still had full heads of soft thick hair 35/45 years later respectively.
    Whereas my hairdresser grandmother (who had a giant beehive in the 60s & still wore her hair big enough to be known as Big Hair Nanna in the early 2000s) has now almost completely ran out of hair. She still colours, curls, sets & teases the few remaining strands… But it’s not a good look.
    I also compare my mum’s hair to her two sisters. Mum is the middle girl & never dyed or bleached her hair, but her older & younger sisters did… And again, what they are left with is terribly sparse & wiry.
    I think you should just go natural… Do an organic semi every now & then for fun… But don’t worry so much.
    At least you have a perky bum & look amazing in yoga poses!

    • Re the best boobs – I think that it is a very close contest between Jamie Lee Curtis, Halle Berry and Gretchen Mol (did you ever see ‘The Notorious Betty Page’?

      Problem is that every time I pulled out a picture of someone with (what I thought) was gorgeous grey hair my husband got terribly upset. ‘Do you want to look like a schoolteacher?’ he asked. I suppose that that depends really, doesn’t it?

  3. 1) Yes you do want to look like a sexy school teacher… how many teenage boys were/are in love with their school teachers?*

    2) I didn’t realise MrG was the only member of your family with exceptional taste & fashion sense… you might have to break ranks on this one 😉

    *On that note, MrO is jealous of Miss2’s daycare teacher “Simon”… she won’t stop talking about him.

  4. I have a neighbor (and yoga buddy) who is in her early thirties, and she proudly wears her gray. It looks awesome.

    I bet you could write a better version of this book if you decide to give gray a go.

    For what it is worth, I have no clue what color my hair is. I think it was blonde about ten years ago. Given my current shade of blue/black, letting my roots grow in would be very painful.

    By the way, I’m still in shock over all the photos of Jamie Lee Curtis (both good and bad).

    Good luck!

    • The earlier that you start the easier that it is, Siouxsie. A lot of hairdressers tell me that it is a bad idea to just leave grey hair alone without any kind of toning. In other words, the good grey hair that you see on celebrities is carefully tended to. Your yoga buddy probably leads a healthy lifestyle otherwise and this will make her look young despite her grey hair. There is a fairly famous yogi with long silver hair – I have seen a lot of pictures of her. She looks like serene, sage and sexy. I think that this is she

      Thank you for the book link x

  5. Be who you are.

    I love wrinkles and grey hair and lines at the corners of my smile. It shows I’ve lived a little and am happy with the resulting me.

    Megan, what makes you beautiful is seen in these words. I see no age here. Only an energetic spirit and a lust for life.

    What does age matter?

  6. You are still a professional woman so I think as long as you are in that arena you have to buck up and go with the flow (which means maintaining your appearance in whatever way that would seem to be appropriate). Once you “retire” – do what you like certainly!

    My father passed away two years ago at the age of 74 and still had very little gray in his jet black hair. His mother was the same way.

    I take after them. While my mom and her sisters started covering their gray in their 30’s (though my mom no longer bothers) – I had kept my black hair until three years ago when I went to blondish highlights. I love them! I can’t see every going back.

    They look awesome and everyone who hasn’t seen me in awhile oooh’s and aaah’s. But for me, it is also about pampering this full-time home-schooling mommy. I love my escape into the salon.

    If it isn’t fun, and it doesn’t seem as if you enjoy the coloring/highlighting route, then I can see how it could be just another chore.

  7. Ooh, what a great post about a topic that is close to my heart (as you know)… My mum, my brother and I all started going grey in our 20s. My mum opted for ash blonde, and kept this colour for ages, meaning monthly visits to the hairdresser and top ups at home. When she was in her 60s, she allowed her hair to be its natural grey.

    My brother went white-gray in his 40s and his hair is now slightly yellow-white – not a good colour. To combat that, he uses Aveda’s Blue Malva shampoo. He looks pretty distinguished, but even for him, grey was ageing – in photos people sometimes mistook him for my father rather than my brother…

    I’ve gone through the whole gamut of grey-disguising techniques at the hairdresser as I’ve grown older and the grey has expanded to take in more and more of my once-brown locks. Highlights in my 20s; lowlights in my 30s; whole head tints in my 40s. I decided that I would let my hair turn its natural colour last christmas – I got quite excited about the idea that maybe I would be a cool silver fox like Jamie Lee Curtis (minus the spectacular boobs and arse – and what a relief to discover from your blog that these weren’t really ‘hers’ anyway!). What I hadn’t expected was that grey hair, when your face is in its late 40s as mine is, is very ageing. I had hoped I could look a bit like Annie Lennox, and had resolved to get kitted out with red lipstick, cool earrings, and have a great, sharp haircut for my grey hair.

    Alas, when I looked in the mirror, even with all those accessories to assist me, I looked a more like a schoolteacher trying to look like Annie Lennox than the fabulous diva herself. (No disrespect meant to school-teachers by the way – what I mean is a certain cultural stereotype of a school teacher rather than any actual school teachers of course!)

    I went to my hairdresser in despair. She is in her 40s, and has amazing steel grey stripes through her once-dark hair. She let her hair grow out to this after years of dyeing the grey. Surely she would encourage me to keep going? Far from it. ‘Colour it’, she advised. I was amazed. ‘Why?’ I said.

    Her answer was that she felt fine about her hair inside the salon, where her colleagues regarded her as hip and edgy and brave. But outside the salon, in the world, she said she just felt older – and was often treated as invisible, or part of an older generation than she actually is. She is keeping her grey stripes, but says that every day she has to confront society’s prejudices against age in women.

    So what did I do? I decided I wasn’t ready for THAT particular struggle, and I would keep colouring my hair for a bit longer. But I did seek the advice of a wizard colour technician in the salon. I had been getting a whole head tint that required retouching the roots every 6-8 weeks. I was finding it pretty onerous. The colour technician devised a new colour formula, which takes my hair a few shades lighter. As my hair grows out, the difference between the silvery grey stripe of regrowth and the blonde colour is much less, and I don’t need to get the roots re-done nearly so often. In fact, I had my colour done just before going overseas, at the end of June, and have only just had it re-done (16 Oct), meaning that the colour lasted well for 3 and a half months. And I love being a little more blonde – there is still a bit of Annie Lennox in me yet.

    Thanks for this post. I think that only you can answer the question of what to do about grey. You must do what feels comfortable and right for you. Good luck!

    • It seems so unfair that just as we reach the point that we become internally at peace with ourselves our external appearance renders us invisible.

      In other cultures white hair is considered to symbolise wisdom and is revered. Perhaps Western culture is too entrenched in the cult of appearance to ever get beyond the prejudice against age.

      Thank you Alison for your measured comment. I have to say that I consider that your hair colour is not only elegant but edgy too and you do remind me of Annie Lennox. A lot.

  8. I have gone grey since I was 18, a genetic predisposition that saw my grandmother and auntie both grey by the time they were 30.

    A dark brunette, I have been over the years every shade of brown, blonde and red you can think of.

    In an effort to correct the effects of too much colour layering on my hair some two years ago, my hairdresser stripped all the colour out of it before re-dying it. For ten awful minutes I saw myself with my natural hair colour – Light grey. I looked twenty years older. I am in my late forties. Every facial line showed. All colour in my clothes seemed to drain or fade. It was truly shocking.

    I have been a redhead ever since and love it, and note that many women my age are a similar shade. Of course it’s not natural but it’s a damnsight more fun than the alternative. When I asked my hairdresser when I should consider grey, he said, ‘In about 20 years’. It works for me.

    If you are going to go grey, the only hair style that will ever work is hair that is sleek and soft and immaculately cut in a bob. Anyone with a hint of curl in their hair tends to look like a madwoman, no matter how much care they take – think Germaine Greer as opposed to Helen Mirren. Pixie cuts such as on Jamie Lee Curtis or Judi Dench only work for certain facial types as well.

    In the end, it’s about wearing whatever hair colour that gives you the most confidence – wear it with strength, great shoes and a twinkle in your eye and you’ll never be invisible.

    • the only hair style that will ever work is hair that is sleek and soft and immaculately cut in a bob. Anyone with a hint of curl in their hair tends to look like a madwoman,

      Ah Sandra – you’ve clinched it – I have mad curly hair so the time that I would save in getting my hair coloured would have to be balanced against the time getting it chemically straightened. I think I may wait another 20 years…

  9. I have plenty of grey, but I keep it two shades of blonde. Mostly, sadly, because I fear that I will be judged in my professional life.

    I’d love to grow it out to be just as it is … I have an almost white strip above my right eye – where I part my hair – and I think it would great grown out … but … but …


    • Not long after I wrote this post MissMdubs, someone pointed me in the direction of a women in her mid-fifties with cascading grey hair, sparkling eyes and an insouciant grin. For the first time, I saw someone who has probably spent her life without feeling the need to use visual sophistry. It was an amazing and powerful thing to see.

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