I met Mimi on Instagram, and asked her if she would mind answering some questions for my blog. Her answers are extremely eloquent and insightful. Happy reading!
How old are you? 37
When did you first start going grey? I remember my Mum’s hairdresser shriekingly telling all his colleagues to come see, he’d found some white hairs on my head when I was about 15. Hilarious! (Not.)
What made you decide to stop dyeing your hair and go fully grey? About 3 years ago. We were at a party with about a dozen friends. All the men (those that still had hair) were starting to go gently grey around the temples. Two of the women had naturally brown hair with little or no grey yet, and the remaining women (including me) had very obvious, very dark, very dyed hair. Don’t get me wrong, everyone looked great, but it just felt a bit unfair. I wondered why it so unusual for women to go down the silver fox route naturally? What are we frightened of?
Was it a difficult decision? I’d been thinking about it for a while, so not really. I was sick of wasting so much time, money and effort to look like a woman with obviously dyed hair. To look like a woman who has to spend so much time, money and effort to cover up what she really looks like. And the dye and highlights were only really convincingly smart for about 10 days, then there were always a few weeks when I had to hope the wind didn’t blow from behind and expose my tramlines to the person walking behind me. Seriously, life is too short for all that.
How did it work logistically? Well. Cautionary tale. I have dark brunette hair. Therefore almost impossible to blend white in to. My hairdresser suggested going blonde and then gradually reducing the quantity of blonde highlights over time. It looked horrific, wrecked my hair, and of course I’m still growing out the frazzled straw ends several years later. To be fair though, she was faced with an almost impossible task, because I wouldn’t allow her to crop my hair at any point, and blending white into dark brown hair when it’s long, is never really going to happen quickly. The blonde saved me from the infamous skunk stripe to an extent… I guess. I’m nearly done now, and my hairdresser and I are still friends. So I’ll just shred any photos from the early stages and we’ll talk no more about it, ‘kay?
How have people responded? Back when I was still a full-head-o-highlights-plus-all-over-tint, I visited an old uni friend and mumbled something about needing to get my roots done. She said, without hesitation “Yes, you really do.” Nothing that I’ve heard since going grey has been as hurtful as that. Around about the same time an Australian hairdresser told me that people go grey younger and younger these days because, in her opinion, “kids eat so much shitty processed meat.” I was 29. The scientist in me wanted to scream at her about evidence-based research, but the human being part of me just said “Thanks for insulting me.” I asked her to finish up as quickly as possible and never went back.
Since going grey, people just say stupid stuff, not hurtful stuff. I’ve had the usual “Are you going grey on purpose?” (such a weird question I can’t even figure out the answer). I’ve had a stranger tell me it looks lovely, only to follow it up with “I couldn’t do it, I’m not as brave as you”. Hmmmmmn. If you think I have to be brave to look like this, then you clearly DON’T think it looks lovely, but whatevs. I didn’t say it of course, I just smiled and thought of actual brave people, y’know, like refugees giving birth in camps. The oddest one, which I have heard over and over, is that my skin will start to lose pigment now that I’ve gone grey. Firstly, from my brief research, that’s not a thing – the cells that moderate colour in your hair and skin have different triggers. But also, as we’ve already ascertained, my hair was starting to go grey in my teens so if it were true (which I don’t believe it is) my skin would’ve been, what, fading (?) for 20 years already. My skin won’t start losing pigment just because I’ve stopped using dye. Dumbos.
Most people I know are sufficiently intelligent that they haven’t responded at all. My friends and family really couldn’t give two hoots what colour my hair is. The loveliest response I’ve had is a kind of strange one. I was chatting to a mum at the school gate – someone I see every day – and she complimented my bright shirt. I said something like “well, I try to steer clear of my grey clothes now that I’ve let my hair go grey.” She replied “Why would you let your hair go grey?”. Sounds strange for me to say that’s the loveliest response. But it is, because I see her every day and she hadn’t even noticed.
How do you think that having grey hair will change your makeup/wardrobe, if at all?
I do try to dress more colourfully than I used to, and just this year I’ve started wearing a bit more make up. But it’s a chicken and egg thing. I would say that I feel more confident in my 30s than I have at other points in my life, so I’m happy dressing more brightly and more like the true “me”. But maybe I feel more confident because I have my own hair and I’m not trying to conceal it. So I don’t know if brighter make up and clothes came before or after the grey hair – d’you see what I mean? Either way, bright colours do help to give me some corners – stop my face fading in to my hair. I also often wear heavy black Rayban specs now, which I love. Again, they help with definition.
What do you think that going grey means to women vs. men? I think it’s a huge divide. I’ve only known a few men that conceal their grey hair. I think that in this respect (and I’m sure I’m not alone) they’re totally unhinged. Naturally greying hair is absolutely acceptable for men, even young men, and society accepts that it looks fantastic and it’s, well, normal. And yet society has almost exactly the opposite expectation for women: “let yourself go” grey when you’re young = unkempt and a bit weird, whereas a phoney ebony or mahogany barnet for the next 40 years = totally normal, in fact, de rigeur. Baffling. Maybe I’m reading too much in to it, but I can’t think of any other reason for the clear distinction at that party three years ago.
Mimi can be found on Instagram on @mimi_hammill. Mimi is also a pattern designer, and you can buy her fabulous patterned silk scarves here http://mimihammill.com/shop/.
Thanks for reading, as always!