Grey's the new blonde

It’s not news to anyone who regularly reads this blog, but Adweek’s finally realized that there are hip old people.

In a recent story, the magazine reported that major fashion brands have been signing celebrity senior citizens—ranging from sexy 60-somethings like Charlotte Rampling and Jessica Lange to 93 year-old Iris Apfel (above).

Adweek raises the spectre that brands like Kate Spade risk alienating younger consumers, though that risk is obviously offset by the massive buying power of Baby Boomers and Seniors.

But the real reason choosing those seniors as spokespeople is that there’s increasingly a sense that it’s actually hip to be... old. As they note, the blog Advanced Style is very popular among millennials. And some millennials are now dying their hair grey.

Yes, grey dye jobs are now a thing. The pop singer Pink has gone grey a few times over the last five years or so, and it’s catching on. One of the Kardashians is doing it. (No, not Bruce.) The phenomenon’s got a hashtag now, #GrannyHair

Ingvild Aslaksen's a Scandinavian teen who definitely does rock the Granny Hair on her Instagram account. The final proof that this isn't just a trend I'm super-sensitive to because of my work here at Revolutionary Old Idea is, when I recently opened a Google search window and started typing, "dye to make hair…" Google filled in 'grey', 'white', and 'gray' before giving me any other options.

The fashion world is still wrestling with the whole “what does this mean?” question when, of course, it’s fashion so it may just be a random choice with no significant meaning. Here at Revolutionary Old Idea, however, we’re interested in things we’re sure it doesn’t mean.

Grey obviously no longer necessarily means ‘old’, ‘tired’, or ‘uncool’. That’s great news, especially for women. (Men have always been cut more slack; it’s always been possible for George Clooney to be both grey and sexy.)

What are the factors driving the new acceptance of grey hair among sexy women? 

  • The increasing awareness of Boomer and Senior buying power, on the part of brands that previously targeted younger women only
  • Mature celebrities hanging onto their own sex-symbol status, who are in turn still admired by Boomers and Seniors who resent the idea that only young people can be attractive
  • The rejection of unattainable and unnatural beauty standards by women of all ages
  • And just maybe the realization by young people that youth is fleeting. By making grey the new blonde, they’re playing the long game for themselves

Ironically Adweek's breathlessly reporting this trend, to readers who, mostly, work at ad agencies where a  grey dye job would be the epitome of cool, but actual grey hair is career-limiting. As I've always said though, Culture leads business, and clients lead agencies. The ad business will be the last to realize that grey's the new blonde.