Eager onlookers could see the back of a grey-haired woman's head through the rear window of a limo as it pulled up to the British Fashion Awards in London last month.
Was it Dame Judi Dench? One might have thought so until a black-stilettoed foot stepped out of the car, followed by a nubile torso in a knicker-baring sheer black skirt. When the woman turned around, she revealed a mass of crucifix pendants - and a cherub-cheeked baby face.
The star with the smoke-coloured hair was teenaged socialite Pixie Geldof, daughter of Sir Bob. One could be forgiven for thinking her grey hair is the result of too much experience on the party circuit. But her grey is faux, the outcome, she says, of an overzealous bleach job followed by a tad too much toner. Having already dyed her hair white and pink, she loved the unexpected dove grey that emerged.
It was, in the end, a fortunate accident, as silver is the latest look that the young and eminently It are sporting. The look has exploded on the runways, among other venues. Models on the fall 2009 and spring 2010 catwalks of designers Giles Deacon, Proenza Schouler and Rodarte rocked smoky locks. It was most prominent at Gareth Pugh's show, where dyed grey hair on the teen and twentysomething models matched the predominantly smoke-coloured palette of the clothes.
Pugh's show was styled by Katie Shillingford, a fashion editor at hip London mag Dazed and Confused; her own grey hair - the work of Alex Brownsell, hot hairstylist to le tout East London - has been a big influence on the trend.
"When she turned up to shows, the way she was wearing her hair grey with navy tips had half the audience turning around and gawping harder at her than attending to what was happening on the catwalk," British fashion writer Sarah Mower wrote in the Telegraph.
Since word travels fast in fashion, more than a few twentysomething-greys-on-purpose were seen hanging around outside the runway tents by the last days of the spring shows, their images sprouting up on style blogs. Singer Pink also recently coloured her hair grey.
Natalia Yanchak of Montreal-based indie band The Dears has natural grey hair matched with a pretty, youthful face. "It's funny the perception people have of grey hair, that you are automatically a grandmother," she says. "I think it's awesome that people are starting to see it the way I see it. Grey hair is beautiful."
Yanchak calls her own style "conservative goth," a term that reflects grey's rebellious, unconventional appeal. "It's flying in the face of ageism," says Victoria Herbert, an editor at Danish magazine Dansk who just wrote a story on the subject.
The irony is that it takes as much work to get and maintain fake grey as to cover up the real thing. There really is no drugstore product to dye your hair grey - most of them are made to do the opposite. Going grey really means bleaching out all the pigment, then using an ash colour toner to combat the brassiness. Some grey-getters use Manic Panic's Virgin Snow dye to bleach their hair white and follow up with a silver shampoo like Phyto's Phytargent for grey hair.
The results of this process still look more like undriven snow than the desired slush shade, so it's best to have the colour done in a salon. Upkeep is important, too.
"Grey hair, even dyed grey hair, is porous and looks better when blow-dried and with the right product to smooth it," says William Angst of Toronto salon Angst. He suggests Milkshake, a cult line from Italy that makes haircare products for fake greys.
But, Angst also warns, fake grey can look as good - or as bad - as real grey. "Some [dos]are gorgeous and some are hideous. It depends on how you're dressing, the impact of your clothing. If you just go grey out of the blue and it doesn't look like there is any connection to your style, it will look stupid."
Special to The Globe and Mail