I feel foolish as a grown woman admitting that a movie inspired my hairstyle. Going red to look like Angela Chase from My So-Called Life when I was 15? Acceptable. Going blond in my 30s because of an action movie with a ridiculous MacGuffin plot? Perhaps less so.
In my defence, I was already blond – just not so blond. Also, have you seen Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde? She looks incredible.
In the 2017 film, Theron wreaks havoc across 1989 Berlin as Lorraine Broughton, an MI6 spy given the task of procuring "the list” – a document containing the identities and shady dealings of countless international spies – before it falls into the wrong hands.
Against a backdrop of political uncertainty (the film begins just days before the fall of the Berlin Wall), she uses her sexuality and physicality to dominate the various men and women who cross her path. She stabs a Soviet agent in the neck with the heel of a cherry red stiletto. She wraps a rope around the neck of another before using it to crash through a window and drop to safety. She seduces a French agent (played by Sofia Boutella) in a nightclub bathroom. And she does it all with really, really excellent hair.
Oh, that hair.
It isn’t just blond, it’s platinum. A chin-length, tousled, almost-white bob with bangs. A style incredibly ill-suited for someone whose job is to go unnoticed.
Because while I haven’t determined for sure whether blondes do have more fun, they definitely get more attention. The day after I first switched my mousy brown locks to a more golden mane – years before I saw Atomic Blonde – the construction workers who’d been toiling on my street all week seemed to suddenly notice me.
I don’t remember what particular remark was shouted in my direction, but I understood then that to choose blond hair is to choose to draw attention to oneself – and if you do, it helps to have the confidence to handle that reality. Platinum hair only raises the bar. Anytime I considered going for it, I dismissed the idea quickly. Who did I think I was? Marilyn Monroe? Gwen Stefani? Madonna? No, platinum hair was for women with the body, wealth and power to match it. Or at least one of those three. I didn’t have any.
But in the summer of 2017, things started to change. I completed my first long-distance solo hike, trekking 160 kilometres along the West Highland Way in Scotland. I came home stronger, both mentally and physically. I brimmed with self-confidence – and boasted newly emerged muscles. To be blunt, I felt pretty kick-ass.
Which is perhaps why watching Theron literally kick ass was so thrilling.
Sporting a brazen wardrobe of vinyl trench coats, bold pants and footwear to die for (confession No 2: This movie also inspired two rather pricey shoe purchases, although I have yet to kill a man with either pair), Theron fights like a girl – in all the right ways.
She rams her open palm into men’s chins instead of trying to land a punch on someone twice her size (just as a self-defence instructor once taught me). She uses furniture to bring down assailants when she is outmatched in terms of physical strength. In one epic, seven-minute fight scene, Theron takes hit after hit and is thrown down stairs. Her face is bleeding and bruised, and her battered body heaves with exhaustion as the altercation goes on. At one point, the ends of that platinum blond hair turn pale pink as it soaks up blood. It was all raw and real, and while I am not typically a fan of hyperviolent movies, I loved it.
Inspired by Theron’s bravado and empowered by my own hiking accomplishment, I decided to take the plunge. One Saturday afternoon that summer, my hairdresser came to my house to take me to the light side. Approximately four hours and 67 pieces of tinfoil later (I long for Theron’s wig), my hair was a reasonable facsimile of what I had seen on the big screen. (Minus the bangs; I’ve learned that lesson.)
Nearly two years later, I haven’t looked back. If anything, I’ve gone brighter. My look does differ from Theron’s in one key way, though (besides the fact I don’t have the figure of a former model). In the film, her lipstick is neutral, which I understand: A bright colour would smear during a fight. Me? I opt for a classic, bold true red lip. That’s my version of a one-two punch.