Ask any hairdresser about the post-lockdown salon conversation, and most will say we are in the midst of a Major Hair Rethink. “Nearly everyone who has been through the door recently has been looking to discuss what’s happened to their hair; what they should keep, what they should change – where they should go from here,” says George Northwood, whose signature dishevelled cuts have made him a go-to for those in hair limbo at the best of times, but particularly now. It’s something hairdresser Joel Goncalves reports too. “Post-lockdown, we’ve seen clients coming back having decided to go grey, or enjoying longer hair,” he says. Hairdresser Adam Reed says he’s noticed a real absence of people asking for hair trends, and much more talk about what suits each individual client: “Trends have totally gone out of the window. And I think it’s bloody brilliant.”
Our hair is a work in progress. There is seldom a moment when we are not halfway towards some particular goal: growing something out, cutting something in, adjusting the colour or fine-tuning the length. There’s almost always a plan, punctuated periodically by much-needed salon resets. But in the past year we’ve had to put a lot of those plans to one side.
Although the prevailing opinion client-side is that our hair has gone to pot, less regular heat styling may have had an impact. What Reed has noticed since his salon reopened is the improvement in the health of many clients’ hair. “People were really conscious of keeping their hair in great condition, especially this time round,” he says, “and I think that interest in the health of your hair will remain – so that instead of being on this downward spiral from one salon appointment to the next, there will now be much better continuity between what you have done in the salon and what you do at home. I think it’s reignited how consumers see us as experts.”
Sophie van Ettinger, part of whose job as global brand vice-president, beauty and digital (hair) at Unilever is to navigate the changing relationship between what we do in salons and what we use at home, believes we may visit salons less frequently, but for more expensive services. “Many people have got more used to using products at home and so will visit the salon only for their big needs such as colour and highlights, but will do the in-between treatments themselves. On the flip side, other people will now revere their salon – I mean, who would have thought one of the biggest things we would miss in lockdown would be our hairdressers? – and will see it as a big treat and want to visit regularly. The ‘Never leave me again!’ cohort.”
The accessories designer Anya Hindmarch is so evangelical about the spirit-lifting powers of good hair that she has called her new book of life lessons If In Doubt, Wash Your Hair (Bloomsbury, £18.99) – and to celebrate its launch last month opened a pop-up salon at her new retail project The Village, comprising five stores on Pont Street, London. “I named the book before lockdown, as it’s something I always jokingly say – but the aching for the hairdresser has been a big theme this year,” she says. When the salons were shut, she made washing her hair “a bit of an event, with long hot showers and a lovely shampoo brand I’ve discovered called Faith In Nature, which comes in refillable recycled bottles and uses water from the Lake District” – and she believes that as we start to get back out into the world, our hair will give us the biggest confidence boost. “For me, hair is different from lipstick or perfume. It’s spring cleaning; a fresh start.”
It’s this feelgood factor that we get from the salon that made lockdown hair so hard – seeing the roots come through and the ends turn to straw felt like giving up. But rather than go for a radical restyle, many hairdressers have been counselling their clients to “lean in” to the new shape their hair has taken naturally, working with whatever has arisen. It’s less about radical restyles (like Margot Robbie’s new blunt fringe or Halle Berry’s deco-inspired bob), and more about an evolution of what’s already there. “If there are trends in what people want now,” says Luke Hersheson, “they’re very much based on the way hair has grown out during lockdown. For example, long, grown-out fringes that have taken on another shape have almost become a style in themselves, so I’ve been keeping them and just adding some more layers and removing any heaviness.”
And of course, one of the biggest changes has been in the number of clients coming back to the salon having begun to grow out their grey – and wanting to keep it that way. George Northwood is all for it – and believes those silvery “lockdown lights” might start to redress the sexism inherent in going grey. “A few greys coming through will become more accepted and cool now for women – as they are with men,” he says.
What going grey shouldn’t be, he says, is suddenly appearing with an all-over shock of platinum. “It’s about a change in pace,” he says. “It’s not giving up on your colour. It’s working your colour in with your grey hair. Over lockdown, you’ve been forced to sit with it. And what people then realise is that where you tend to go grey first can be quite flattering on your face.” The strategy he recommends is what some have taken to calling “grombré”: let the regrowth happen, then instead of having it tinted, you colour some pieces of it in high or low lights. “So you just tint half of it and then it all blends.” Others embrace one shock of grey at the front only, like Andie MacDowell, but keep colouring other roots for now.
Visual references are useful, too, and there is some good recent inspiration: for example, the enormous painting displayed in Northwood’s salon of Elon Musk’s stunningly silver mother, Maye Musk. American visual artist (and partner of Keanu Reeves) Alexandra Grant also does a good grey; her secret seems to lie in the fact that it always looks lustrous and healthy, chiming with the new emphasis on hair health. And US sitcom star turned wellness guru Tia Mowry last year embraced her natural hair, resulting in a fabulous afro with salt-and-pepper greys.
One thing George Northwood is clear on is that anything more than a smattering of grey calls for a modern haircut, almost bordering on the graphic. It’s an opinion shared by Nicola de Burlet, founder of The PR Studio, who has taken her grey to an all-over silver “in around eight months”. “It needs some structure,” she says. “If it’s too dishevelled, it can leave you looking a bit ‘witchy’.” Her grey journey has been so transformative that she created a social feed, dedicated to “greyspiration”. “There are some amazing women who do grey so stylishly, like Maye Musk and Carmen Dell’Orefice – but far fewer women closer to my age, at 50. I’d spend hours on Pinterest, typing in ‘Scandinavian women with chic grey hair’, because they do it so well.”
She adds, though, that going fully grey is “a real change of mindset” and you should be prepared to make changes to your wardrobe and make-up too. “Things like floral dresses can make you look ancient,” she says. “What works is a leather jacket, something a bit tougher, or a man’s shirt with an oversized blazer.” And for make-up, she says it becomes crucial to find a good, natural-looking bronzer – she favours Guerlain’s Terracotta Bronzing Powder – and a bluish-red lipstick like Nars Carmen Audacious Lipstick. And eyebrows become “absolutely essential” – subtly filled in with a brow pencil like Anastasia Beverly Hills’s in the colour approximating the shade your hair was before the change. Grey or no grey, doing what comes naturally always takes work.
The confidence boost of a hair rethink could be just the thing to accompany the big social re-entry. And if anyone doubts your choices, just remind them that your hair is, of course, a work in progress.