Hi everyone and here’s my take on this grey hair business.

Just recently there’s been a fair amount in the media about the glories of going or being grey. It’s always coming up: for instance, on Sunday the veteran journalist Katherine Whitehorn in The Observor wrote about being rung up and asked if she was going grey (no, she’s not and she’s 88); a couple of weeks ago Tricia Cusden documented her views on transitioning to grey (and gave some very useful tips, btw); and last year Alyson Walsh of That’s Not My Age posted about her grey-haired heroines and then it came up again recently in another post on 50+ fashion week.

And our very own Mary Beard (an English classical scholar and academic, for those of you who don’t know her, who has amazing, but slightly unkempt, long grey hair) was on Radio 4 with a half-hour prog called Glad to Be Grey.  I listened but, to be honest, didn’t learn much. She was asking why so many women feel they have to dye their hair.

At this point I’m not exactly questioning that women feel pressure to dye, because equally, I think there’s quite a movement out there calling for women to embrace their grey and/or white locks. Which is lovely, if that’s what you want.

Actually, I think what’s happening is that there’s a rigid, stereotypical view that older women really should have grey hair, yes? And it’s that blanket assumption that I don’t like – the notion that because our hair has gone, or is going white, that’s what we have to be, be white, be grey, be your age, don’t dye, don’t be false, be true to yourself, etc., etc.,

Look, don’t tell me what to do.

Pressure to go grey is just as bad as pressure to dye – and there’s a lot of stereotyping going on here. Just think about the recent excellent use of older models – it’s almost essential that these older models have long lustrous grey/white hair. And pretty much all these articles show wonderful photos of beautiful women with long flowing grey hair. Is this reality? Actually, most older women I know have short hair. And while we’re at it many of these lovely models portraying how marvellous grey hair is, are young (i.e. they’re in their 40s & 50s which, to me is young). And they inevitably have olive or tanned or young glowing skin so their grey hair looks gorgeous on them.

I think I’m going to start a movement of older women who absolutely refuse to go grey – it’s called Grey, No Way.

Because why? Because you should take note of your skin tone that’s why – it definitely gets paler as you age. After this winter my skin tone is so white it’s almost blue.  And I, personally, don’t want to disappear into sea of greyness and paleness.

Above all, your hair colour should be about what looks and feels right for you. We older women, we’re all sorts and types, and that includes all sorts of looks and all sorts of colours of hair!

Why ever not!

ImageHere’s a pic of me (with dyed blond hair) taken about four years ago with my friend (dyed red hair).  I’ve gone one shade paler, but she’s still strutting the red hair.

And one of the reasons I don’t want to go white haired is the example of my red-haired mother who dyed her hair (red) until she was 80, but let it go when she got too frail to go out, and it wasn’t a good look that mix of grey, red, white and brown.

1983 - MayI was a red head once (see the pic on the right – taken with a flash, hence the brown eyes!)  and I’d be the same.

So at this moment in time I’m glad to be what I damn well choose to be – a blonde!

That’s all for now, but do tell me what you feel about going grey – or not!

 Penny, the frugalfashionshopper

 P.S. Next week’s Part Deux will be on that excess hair thing.

 P.P.S. And again for those of you who read to the end, here’s a treat.  Here’s silver fox Mr Frugalfashionshopper a couple of years before I met him – how about that for a head of hair!



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22 thoughts on “Hair Part I – are you going grey or not?

  • 18th March 2016 at 9:08 am

    I am 67 and don’t dye my hair – yet. My hair is still mostly mid brown with just a small area at the temples going grey (and in my eyebrows!) just down to genetics. I will probably start dying it at some point as I don’t think grey hair would suit me at all. I don’t have the contrast that makes it look dramatic – nor the personality to carry that off. I also don’t think I have the colouring to carry off the ‘softer’ look (like Judy Dench), I am sure I will just look faded and tired – or at least that is how it would make me feel. Depending how it turns grey ( gradually all over or just spreading from the temples) will influence my decision. I am edging toward a lighter brown rinse at the moment, sooner than an all over dye.
    It really is every woman’s personal choice just as it has been all her life. I have a friend who was a natural blond but started to go grey in her early 40’s, her hairdresser persuaded her to dye it brown – it looked awful – she then tried all sorts of different things non of which looked ‘right’ for her. One day she asked my advice – I told her to change her hairdresser! She did and now has gorgeous ‘blonde’ hair again.
    I am reminded of something Neil Kinnocks wife said – that she had gone prematurely blonde! I don’t remember the context but for some reason that always stuck with me. I think my mantra is becoming ‘each to their own’.

    • 18th March 2016 at 11:53 am

      Absolutely, Jenny, it should be our decision based on our current hair colour and skin tone and just like you I want to avoid that washed out, faded look which I’m pretty sure is how I’d be if I went grey/white. I love the way Glenys Kinnock put it!

  • 18th March 2016 at 9:32 am

    Nicely said then. Do like your view on it.

    • 18th March 2016 at 11:53 am

      Thank you so much, Judy 🙂

  • 18th March 2016 at 9:50 am

    What a great picture! Is Bill modelling there? Or covering up a streaker?

    • 18th March 2016 at 11:55 am

      It’s a photo taken at Bill’s college (and therefore professionally shot) for a party invite. It is amazing, that hair!!!

  • 18th March 2016 at 10:19 am

    Hi Penny
    This is a great counter to the ‘glad to be grey’ movement. I’m not sure that the pressure on ageing women has moved decisively from ‘remove all traces of grey’ to ‘you must embrace the grey’ but I do agree that this is a very personal choice and that grey or white hair just doesn’t suit warm skin tones. The fact that you were once such a vibrant redhead means that your skin tone has a yellow (rather than blue) undertone – so grey hair would contrast very badly with your other features and also the clothes you wear. You have very cleverly chosen a warm blonde colour for your beautifully cut, thick hair. This is the perfect choice for you, however on me with my cool toned skin it would be a disaster and I am longing to go grey!

    • 19th March 2016 at 8:51 am

      Hi Tricia and yes, a yellow tinge to my skin tone – I hadn’t thought of that but you’re right. I certainly did have that tone – but I’ve got awfully pale just recently!

      Yes, I think there’s a pressure to tint and dye to be youthful. But equally, there’s often a spate of media exposure on embracing the grey (which has happened just recently). And sometimes these articles can be a bit ‘holier-than-thou’ which I admit gets to me a bit. I think what I dislike more than anything is all these wonderful older models who inevitably have long grey hair – that’s not reality and we shouldn’t see them as role models. But is modelling ever based on reality – no!

      I love the debate about greying though, and think we need to encourage women to take the subject of their hair colour on their own terms – it’s what suits the skin tone that matters.

  • 18th March 2016 at 10:43 am

    From the age of 16 I had blonde tips put in my mouse brown hair, I never saw my real hair until 2 years ago. I gradually became blonder and blonder and I could see that my hair at the front hardly needed the roots doing, I used do it myself and it became more and more of a chore so at 68 I let it grow out and it has turned out that the front and sides are the most gorgeous shade of silver and the back is quite dark, my hairdresser said I was so lucky to have this shading and I absolutely love it, if it had been salt and pepper or a ‘dirty’ grey which can sometimes happen I would have gone back to having it coloured, it just happens to suit me and I can wear bright clear colours but also black and silver and silvery grey which I couldn’t wear before. Age has nothing to do with it, It is every woman’s individual right to choose what suits her and makes her happy.

    • 18th March 2016 at 12:04 pm

      What a great way to go grey, Carol, and how lovely to have that silver tinge, bet you look good. Yes, I started my ‘dyeing’ because the red strawberry blonde hair I had faded to a gun-metal grey which was so dull, and it would still be like that at the back of my head. Absolutely, yes, colouring our hair, or not, is about what suits us and makes us happy!

  • 18th March 2016 at 10:55 am

    It surprises me that an intelligent woman like Mary Beard should waste her time trying to persuade women to go grey. Everyone should decide for themselves

    • 19th March 2016 at 8:53 am

      I so agree, Chris

  • 18th March 2016 at 12:35 pm

    Penny. This was the greatest read to wake up to! I’m a believer in the “Free to Be. You and Me” movement. If a woman wants to go gray, fine. If not–fine! It’s akin to the militant La Leche League breastfeeders. They believe every women should breastfeed their children–period. I breastfed my children until they were each three years old but I could care less how others did it. Your child. Your titties. Your choice. The same with hair.
    My coloring is that cool, fish-belly white. Gray locks would make me look washed out and–well, it isn’t an attractive look for me. I prefer to reach for the bottle and bring my locks back to their original color of black. Not deep brown. Not almost black. But ebony black.
    In the past I’ve experimented. I’ve been a redhead as well (BTW, you looked GREAT with red hair) and loved it–but as my hair thinned, the roots took on a pinkish hue. Not a good look for me. I’ve also had blonde highlights, which I also loved but the bleaching took a toll on my hair.
    I GET that a number of women in our age bracket embrace their natural gray tresses–and that’s fine. But don’t get preachy about it. Don’t be like a freakin’ control freak or the “I-know-it-all” type.
    And it is natural that we love ourselves–whether we unnaturally dye our hair or not. We need to love ourselves for who we are!
    Thanks for a great post and I cannot wait for part 2!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • 19th March 2016 at 9:03 am

      Yes, it’s the preachiness of those articles that gets to me. I’ve even seen below-the-line comments that are bordering on outright condemnation of those of us who dye and tint. Really! First, I think, look there’s a lot of other stuff in this world to worry about and you’re getting worked up about hair dye! And second, dying the hair is just such a little thing you do to make yourself personable – leave us alone, then, to do just that!!!!

      And your colouring is just right for a dark hair colour, must be your Irish ancestry, lovely 🙂

  • 18th March 2016 at 1:43 pm

    Ha ha loving the photo of Bill. Totally agree it shoulod be our choice and no pressure or expectations either way. To grey or not to grey that is our and only our personal question

    • 19th March 2016 at 8:56 am

      It’s a great photo, isn’t it!

      And going grey – it’s what suits us that matters – those articles on ’embracing the grey’ really annoy me (as you’ve probably guessed!)

  • 18th March 2016 at 3:55 pm

    I’m enjoying this correspondence and agree with the ‘decide for yourself’ brigade. My hair has stayed mid-brown, rather to my surprise, at 76, though with some grey hairs beginning to show now. Sometimes people think I’m younger than I am, which is nice, but on the other hand, when they make that assumption, it also sometimes means that people think I should be more willing to take on little jobs e.g. on committees etc. which I have now retired from!
    Keep up the good work Penny – Margaret

    • 19th March 2016 at 9:09 am

      You know what Margaret, Bill and I have said we’ll have to retire again probably in our mid 70s as we are sooo busy. Sometimes we wonder if we are retired at all, and the answer is no we’re not we’re working! Keeps you going of course, but perhaps I’ll go white haired around that time to shock everyone into realising how old I really am!!!

      Your brown hair I guess is all down to the genes which is really nice. I thought you looked great last time I saw you!

  • 25th March 2016 at 10:15 am

    I too have celtic colouring, green eyes and pale skin, in my youth my hair was a dark auburn. But now in my sixtys it has faded to a ‘wet mouse’ colour. So I dye it golden blonde now and receive lots of compliments. So in spite of what ‘experts’ say I for one have no intention of commiting to the grey! Loving your blog, so glad I found you! Keep up all the good work

  • 25th March 2016 at 11:51 am

    I’ve just found your blog & I’m pleased that you are speaking up for those of us who choose not to be grey . There does seem to be quite a ‘ movement’ for grey just now & some of the comments on sites are rather too evangelistic for me . Some of the grey ladies look fabulous , some don’t , but it’s up to them . It’s not for everyone , my grey would be yellowish like my mums so I’ve decided on a lighter brown than my original instead . Sometimes we women are very hard on each other .
    Love the collie you had , by the way

  • 17th April 2016 at 10:29 am

    Grey no Way!!
    Love those words, for me the trip to my hairdressers every 5 weeks is an adventure! I get to talk to people share a joke, drink coffee etc. So all this I would greatly miss if I was stupid enough to deliberately put ten years on myself by choosing to go great and in my case horrid salt and pepper! Yes I know some ladies look fabulous with that colour but I just hate the thought!
    I did once try on a grey wig just to ‘see’ my girlfriend said straight away it does make you look older, so that just confirmed my thought, it was a very good wig, well cut and a very natural grey, I know that sounds odd but some can be harsh and unflattering. So that has made my resolve stronger. I will continue my regular treat to myself as long as I am able, I have in last 12 months undergone two knee replacements, suffice to say I’m extremely glad I only have two legs and it is the best thing I have done, except of course staying dyed!
    Thanks to Tricia LFF for pointing me in your direction!

  • 18th April 2016 at 7:27 am

    Yes, I so agree with you – I’d definitely have a salt and pepper look with the pepper almost red, not a good colour at all. And I’ve tried a wig as well – what a shock it was!!! The colour grey doesn’t suit my face and I never wear white so why have that colour on my head!!!

    Well done you re: the knees and thank you for coming over to read the blog x

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