Kathy Phillips, Beauty Editor at Vogue. ex-blonde and author of The Vogue Book of Blondes has recently decreed, with a change of hair colour to match, that black is the new blond. But since, ever eager to follow fashion, I have also taken a walk on the dark side, Im not so sure.
From Box Office to bimbo - blonde is beautiful. Seven of the ten Hollywood legends featured on the cover of last months Vanity Fair were blonde, or tinting towards it. Candace, herself a blonde, Bushnell has even written a novel about women whose only defining characteristic seems to be the colour of their hair; and no premiere, restaurant opening, or launch party seems complete without a host of well-toned, perma-tanned renta-blondes streaking in front of the camera - and thats just the footballers. Anyone would think it was natural. So, is this really the time time to throw caution and Clairol to the winds and become a brunette? Well, yes - I thought so. Perhaps blondes do have more fun, but they also have more roots, and personally I was sick of mine.
My roots are darker than Arthur Hayleys, but not so difficult to find. Ive been dying my hair for so long its hard to remember what my natural shade is. Foliage on the southerly slopes, is not an accurate indication. My mother-in-law, a woman raised to think that genealogical make-up means a Max Factor compact and a weekly visit to the hairdresser, insisted that I chop off a lock of my new born baby daughters hair. Not for sentiment - but so her colourist could match it later in life. On this basis I would be bald and weigh nine pounds. So maybe not.
I started off strawberry blonde, lightened gradually to golden-sand in salon-speak, which lifted, if thats the right word, to an electric, sea-side landlady yellow. For the last year, depending on sun exposure, Ive felt like a contestant on Stars in Your Eyes. Tonight, - you are Rita Fairclough/Terrence Stamp. If I had lost weight and sang show tunes, I could have done drag. And when the roots grew in I looked like a piebald horse who surfs.
So, enough. No more bleach, no more feeling like an over ready chicken with a head full of foil parcels. I didnt want that horrible henna halo, so I told my colourist, seventy percent of whose clients are born-again blondes: Do it chocolate brown - somewhere between Caramac and Cadburys dairy milk. Sadly, I came out more like Bournville, and without any of the glossy 70% cocoa solid sheen youd get on a bar of Valrhona. Worse, Id inadvertenty scratched my head while the colour was on and come out with dark brown fingers which didnt look particularly edible.
I had been sitting there under the infra-red lights, fancying myself as Catherine Zeta Jones, Elizabeth Tailor vamping it up in Cleopatra - (all peachy complexion, dark eyes and inky tresses) or Nigella on a shampoo day. Instead, think Monica from friends - when she was fat. No one told me that the dewy skin didnt come in the same tube as the hair colour. Turns out fair, freckled Scots only do bitter chocolate hair when they want to look like theyve been dead for a while. I had to completely rethink my make-up - ie wear some - and throw away my much loved scarlet lipstick lest people think I was called Mercedes and worked nights in Kings Cross. I looked so different that if I caught sight of myself unexpectedly in the mirror, I crossed myself. A friend was even convinced I was my own sister which, since shes 15 years older, isnt the kind of remark that passes for a complement.
Kathy Phillips, said that she wanted a radical change, and so it either had to be a Mia Farrow or go brunette. She had a few lighter streaks at the front just to take the hard edge off and loves he new look. People still dont recognise her and have to do a double take. However, she admits that she doesnt get as much of that blonde attention as before. But as a blonde you have to be more discreet so as not to look tacky. Being a brunette - you get a better quality of attention and yet have a lot more scope for being really badly behaved.
Ill remember that as Im drawing in my eyebrows of an evening though as a brunette the only attention I get is that men want to talk to me about literature. What am I Joan bloody Bakewell? its coming to something when you only wish theyd look at your breasts rather than call you interesting.
Just like Gwynneth Paltrow who had a brief love affair with brown during her favouring the drab period, I still hear peroxide calling my name. Furthermore, Im assuming that Kathy doesnt have the same retouch problems that I do or has more money to throw at the problem and more time to devote to it - because no matter how hard you try, you cant escape your roots. When mine grow back rather than the Heinz 57 varieties of yesterhair, I look like a badger. And Cruella de Ville was never my role model.