Rebelling against tradition

November 13, 2015 · Share via Email LinkedIn

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It's long been a part of popular culture that gray hair, especially for women, was something to hide. As soon as dreaded gray hairs sprout, it's common for women to suddenly take to dying their hair at home or at the salon — anything to cover up the silver strands. And it’s not new. Even women in ancient Egypt covered up their grays with dyes made from oil and black cat blood. Later, women used combs made of lead to darken their hair and concocted all kinds of mixtures as dyes.

So, why is it now that going gray is suddenly in? Millennials all over the world are asking their hairdressers for more silver hues and the hashtag #grannyhair has taken off on Instagram. While Millennials have long led trends, Boomers are now influencing hairstyles and colors of all ages. Are Boomers the new hair trendsetters?

While it's true that the silver-colored trend is flattering on most skin tones, Millennials aren't just going after gray hair for aesthetics alone. And, it's not necessarily true that Millennials are looking to look older in the same way as their naturally-gray counterparts. However, the gray hair trend is most definitely a rebellion against traditional beauty standards. In a mainstream culture in which youthfulness is highly valued, dying one's hair gray rebukes the norm. It liberates women from being dependent upon their physical appearance for beauty and value. For younger women who are already naturally gray, the trend is a welcome relief from their own dying routines.

If Millennials are looking to overturn traditional standards, what else can they learn from their older and more experienced counterparts? Here are a few ideas:

  • Role models for romance. Boomers are more likely than Millennials to have married young. And while it's unlikely that many Millennials will do the same, they can certainly learn from the deep love and partnerships of the older generation.
  • Learning to enjoy life. Boomers in retirement are at a place in their lives that they want to enjoy - travel more, relax and smell the roses. For Boomers still working, they're excellent at separating work from life and achieving an ideal balance. Millennials can learn from Boomers how to live a more joyful life with time well spent.
  • Career commitment. Millennials are far more likely than Boomers to job hop, which means that they're missing out on opportunities to establish roots and gain organizational expertise. Perhaps the next trend will be digging into the job ranks for the long haul.
  • Civic duties. Boomers are known for active civic engagement, while in contrast, Millennials are the most disengaged generation yet — despite the impact of policy on their day-to-day lives. What if there was a way for Boomers to make voting cool for the younger generation?

All in all, Boomers are increasingly influential. As Millennials age up, they'll likely continue to look to Boomers for trends setting for more than just the color of their hair.