This summer's hairstyle trends have been all about pastel colors and experimentation, and one major source of #HairGoals for those inclined to dye their locks has seemingly been granny hair. Women of all ages are embracing the silver-gray hue that hair tends to turn as we age, and often doing it well before the hair is actually at that point. If you're currently graying, though, then you've arguably never been more on-trend than now.
It's a style that's sweeping the world of Instagram and fashion blogs, and I personally love that something traditionally perceived as a feature that needs to be covered up — a so-called flaw of our older years — is getting the attention and appreciation it deserves. I have always been enamored with silver, gray, and white hair on older women, and I've vowed to let my hair do its natural thing.
In addition to letting my strands do their silver thing, I've also vowed to keep my hair long in my senior years. In my life, I've observed that it's terribly common for a woman to feel like she must cut off her strands once they're not as thick and lush as they once were. Although a short hairstyle for a woman in her older years isn't remotely unappealing, I do feel it's important to go against established beauty "rules" and prove that long, thin hair can be just as lovely as a cute bob.
I interviewed six women from my circle of friends who embody the hair goals of my future. Whether they're rocking their own gray hair or simply refusing to cut it all off, they're all majorly inspiring.
Catherine Sepko, 66
Dr. Catherine Sepko was one of my English professors (and dean of the humanities department) at my university. I am just loving the longer hair she is currently sporting, as her natural graying process has created a reverse ombre effect. She recently took some time away from teaching at North Greenville University in South Carolina, but these days, she's back on her teaching and hair games.
"When I decided to go back to NGU, I was definitely aware that my hair was changing. As I used to wear my hair shoulder-length or longer during my high school and college days, I was interested in whether I would like it long again. After all, most stylists would say that older women needed to cut and of course highlight their air. My first gray hair came in a more blonder color, which was strange, as I had always had dark brown hair with auburn highlights. All of the health adventures of the past year, however, turned that hair and more gray."
As for the current gray hair trend on younger women, Sepko doesn't see the appeal:
"I don't think I would have wanted to dye my dark hair gray when I was young, but now, it just seems normal."
Sepko in 1969 on her wedding day.
When it comes to aging, Sepko says her hair reminds her that it's all a natural process:
"In many ways, I do not feel old in my mind, but my body and my hair ... remind me that apparently, I am aging."
Kathy Young, 65
Kathy Young is a retired neonatal nurse from Margate, England, and with a team of others, she currently pastors at a church in her town.
"I don't think I will ever fit the granny mold. I am going into old age kicking and screaming! I always want to be a glamorous nanny."
I admire her dedication to staying "young at heart," and adore her platinum blonde hue, which always looks so natural and unassuming. As for granny hair, she says keeping it blonde is suitable for her and swears by her hairdresser and straightener to keep her looking her best.
"I have always been keen to be on trend with my hair, but will never be part of the blue/purple rinse brigade! I have colored my hair blonde since I was about 40, and so have no idea how gray I am. I guess I am, because regrowth is not so obvious nowadays, and I am fanatical about doing my roots monthly.
"I am fortunate to have very thick hair with a lot of body. I have the most amazing hairdresser who's trimmed/cut and restyled my hair if necessary every six weeks for the last 12 years. My favorite tool is my hair straightener -- the most incredible invention ever."
Gerry Greenwood, 69
My husband and I rented a room in Gerry Greenwood's house for eight months while we explored Northern California. Greenwood is a retired teacher and social worker, and has such a gift for hospitality. She rocks her gray hair in a cute, stylish bob, and never lets her age hold her back from her favorite pastime: travel. A lot of it.
When I asked her about her thoughts on the granny hair trend, she wasn't aware it was a thing.
"If it's becoming, I'm in. If silly, I'm out. But that's my general perspective."
Well, if people can get grays like yours, Gerry, then it's totally becoming. I'm smitten with her sensible yet cool vibe when it comes to her locks.
"The trick is to have an artist who can cut hair [well]. I'm in the midst of growing out a bit, yet still keeping a bit of an edge."
Jo Weir, 62
Keen to share her natural way of life, Jo Weir says that enjoying her family through the years is what's preserved her sense of joy in aging.
"Someone once said to me it takes a lot of confidence to wear my gray hair. That struck me kind of funny. I sure haven't given it any thought ... I was watching my children grow up, instead of myself growing older."
I'm totally inspired by her outlook. Weir's hair journey through the years proves that confidence in who you are — no matter your age — goes a long way towards feeling beautiful.
"As my hair became more silver than brown, I began to notice that other people often commented and loved my hair. I also noticed how few women did wear their hair naturally."
Weir says the recent gray hair dyeing trend has spiked even more interest in her hair.
"Since the granny hair trend, I receive more compliments on my hair, even from young girls wondering how I get this color."
She applauds the look on girls half her age and younger as well:
"I think the fashion of a young women with silver hair is splendid. The contrast is very stunning!"
Vicky Campbell works as an instructor at a university in Kentucky. She shared with me her seemingly lifelong struggle to achieve the certain ash blonde shade she had always wanted. She found that dyeing her hair blonde as a teenager gave her hair the body and volume she craved, as opposed to her naturally fine, straight, oily hair. So she dyed her hair off and on for the next 40 years, getting more voluminous hair, but never being able to get that exact shade of ash blonde. Then it all changed.
"About four years ago, I decided that I was tired of color, so I stopped. Imagine my surprise when my natural color is now the color I have been trying to get all these years. And the gray has more body, too."
Campbell's experience is such a lesson in loving who you are as you are. When it comes to her current style, Campbell is in for the long haul:
"As long as my stylist stays in business and I can order my wax (no longer made in the U.S.), I will probably keep this style for a long time."
Joann Durham, 71
Last but not least is my Aunt Joann, my mother's eldest sister and the family matriarch since the passing of my grandmother years ago. She has always been a beauty to everyone in our family, as we all admire her strength and loving lifestyle. She welcomed her hair changing as she aged:
"It wasn't a big deal. I didn't stress out. I used to frost my hair for a lot of my younger years, but I got tired of the struggle. It's much easier to let it go natural. There's no worries about anything, and it's a lot less of a problem for me."
She distinguishes different aging hair colors as gray, silver, and white, and warns against the yellow-gray.
"I've got some white and brown mixed in — that's gray to me. I don't have a shiny silver hue, and I'll have to wait for it to turn pure white like my daddy had. Now, some gray can be a yellowish color, but you don't want that. Purple shampoo is a good remedy for that."
She'd never heard of younger women dyeing their hair gray or silver on purpose. But to that, she offered this piece of advice:
"Don't rush on getting older. Wait and let it come naturally, because you will definitely get it in the future."
When looking at each of these six women and their varying hairstyles and outlooks, a couple of things become clear to me. Beauty has no age. Confidence in who you have become as you age is key to your own self esteem. And that's what is going to help others believe in their own continued beauty as well.
So I say to my hair: Whatever may come, let's do it!
Images: Courtesy of Interviewees