Going grey is on trend

When Ms Pearl Chia decided to stop colouring her grey hair and let it grow out, she did not realise that it would attract so much flak.

The 66-year-old retiree faced pressure from friends who thought she should have continued to dye it as they felt white hair made her look older.

But the comments barely ruffled the widowed mother of two.

"I didn't feel angry," says Ms Chia. "But a friend got annoyed at me because I wouldn't listen to her when she told me to colour my hair."

Ms Chia, who noticed her first grey hair when she was 50, decided to grow out her grey hair in 2008 for two reasons: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, she thought, looked good with his salt-and-pepper hair and she also found it troublesome to dye her hair every month. She adds: "I didn't like the smell of the chemicals in the hair dye too."

She is one among a growing number of people - more men than women, according to stylists - who are warming up to their faded follicles.

A head of white hair, say hairstylists and fashion gurus, no longer carries the negative connotation of ageing.

Those who want to go natural are also getting some help from the changing tides of fashion: Granny hair is now in vogue.

Within the past two years, designers from fashion houses such as French luxury brand Chanel as well as American designer Alexander Wang have styled their models with silver hair.

It has also been spotted on celebrities such as American singer Lady Gaga, Madonna's daughter Lourdes Leon and reality-television star Kylie Jenner.

Thousands of people are also posting photos of themselves rocking the look on social media.

In Singapore, home-grown menswear brand biro styled its models' hair with white styling paste at a fashion show this month for "a futuristic" look, says biro co-founder Kage Chow, 31.

Local celebrities such as Hong Huifang, 56, and composer and performer Dick Lee, 60, have also flaunted their white manes with pride.

Says fashion director of regional magazine publisher Heart Media, Mr Tok Wei Lun: "I know of many people who are not bothered about going grey. Also, I don't think people associate white or grey hair with ageing as much as they did before.

"It is now no longer a must to colour one's hair just because it's turning white," he says, adding that younger people without white hair now spend hours in the salon chair bleaching their hair to achieve the perfect tone of silver-grey.

Dr Xiao Hong, an associate professor at Nanyang Technological University's Division of Sociology and Director of Master of Science in Applied Gerontology, believes the trend of "global population ageing is also changing societal mindsets and redefining social norms on beauty, fashion and being cool".

"When we consider older members of society as valuable assets to workplaces, families and the nation at large, then grey hair will be seen as natural and beautiful - altering traditional notions of grey hair and being old," she says.

Mr Nilesh Parekh, a freelance sound recordist who has a head full of silver hair, agrees. The 31-year- old's black hair started to grey when he was 17. He dyed it until he was 22, then decided to let it grow out naturally.

Mr Parekh, who is single, says: "I think it's an awesome conversation starter when people try to guess my age and realise that I'm a lot younger than I look."

Others do it for practical reasons.

Celebrity hair stylist Shunji Matsuo, 66, who has white hair along his hairline and in his sideburns, says: "Grey hair is not exactly something you need to hide and you can create many amazing looks with it.

For example, you can make use of your natural silver hair as a base and put in highlights."

But for Ms Nora Tien, deciding to go grey was about embracing herself. The 53-year-old business development manager at a skincare brand decided to stop dyeing her hair five years ago, when her scalp became more sensitive.

She managed the transition by bleaching her whole head and then made regular trips to the salon to trim off the bleached ends as she "could not bear to see the regrowth".

Her two children and younger relatives felt her grey hair was "cool", although her older friends and family thought otherwise.

"I feel it's alright to be your natural self and, for me, having grey hair was just a matter of time," says Ms Tien, who is a former model.

"I should just embrace it."

This article was first published on Dec 22, 2016.
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