The color game: Adult women choosing offbeat hair colors

'I took (Kristin Hood) to alternating platinum and lilac throughout her naturally blonde hair. It's subtle - like a whisper of color.' -Stylist Kathryn Werks

Photo by Logan Foll.

'I took the top of (Barbie Hughes') hair to a dark chocolate and faded it into auburn, then into copper, and ended it in orange - like a flame.' -Stylist Kathryn Werks

Photo by Logan Foll /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Hallie McFadden has been dying her hair for three decades. She's gone from brown to red to blonde, as well as black, purple, green, platinum and more.

'I started adding streaks of brighter colors a couple years ago,' McFadden says. 'I just wanted something different.'

Though McFadden, 51, began experimenting with edgy hairstyles and colors in her 20s, it's only been in the last couple years that some adult women have opened up to coloring their hair in unusual shades or adding color streaks to their natural shade. Think Cyndi Lauper, Sharon Osbourne and even Dame Helen Mirren, who sported a bright pink bob at the 2013 BAFTA Awards.

'I like to change my hair because I get bored looking in the mirror if I look the same for too long,' says McFadden, a 51-year-old local attorney. 'I've been a 'hair adventurer' since law school when I moved to Los Angeles and finally felt free to express myself.'

Age should have nothing to do with style or color of hair, she says.

'I find what makes me happy, what looks good, what's comfortable and what's fun,' McFadden says. 'Then I do it -- sometimes to the chagrin of my kids (a teenage girl and boy).'

Kathryn Werks, a stylist at Hair A Go Go on Manufacturers Road, says some of her adult clients prefer sophisticated colors while others seek to shock.

'I have a client, Kristin Hood, who goes for sophisticated colors, not funky ones,' Werks says. 'She prefers something more subtle rather than shocking, so I took her to alternating platinum and lilac throughout her naturally blonde hair. It's subtle -- like a whisper or breath of color.'

Hood, 30, a civil engineer, says she loves her new look.

'What I really like is that it doesn't look purple. It adds depth to the blonde that you don't get with typical highlights,' she says, noting that the lilac is so subtle most people don't even notice it.

While Werks says it's her job to listen to what a client wants, it's also her responsibility as a professional to offer an opinion and/or advice.

'I tell my clients it's their hair and their time and I'll do what they want, but I'll also ask them what 'feelings' do they want to show and I'll give suggestions,' Werks says.

'I love change and look for it. I always ask a client, 'What can we do different today?'' she says. 'I research cuts, styles and color and translate it to my clients. I never want color to look cheap or trendy. I want it to look sophisticated, classy and expensive.

'But before I suggest a color or cut, I look at my client's face. If they are needing a pickup, I say 'Let's try something new.''

Barbie Hughes, another of Werks' clients, recently opted for a 'shocking' change.

'She wanted her hair to be straight up and hardcore blue and green,' Werks says. 'I saw that I could do something better moving into fall using colors that melted together. I took the top of her hair to a dark chocolate and faded it into auburn, then into copper, and ended it in orange -- like a flame. It looks cool. Blue and green would have looked crazy.'

Hughes, 33, a professional locksmith, says the flame-colored hair was entirely Werks' idea.

'I had some photos (of hairstyles and colors) and she thought they were not right for me,' Hughes says. 'So I asked her what she thought and she said I needed some fall colors. The colors she picked were more subtle than what I had in mind.'

Eddie Garza, a stylist at Salon Haven in Red Bank, says crazy colors aren't just for women.

'Men and women are becoming more expressive with their style and color, and it reflects in their hair,' he says. 'Personally, I love all colors. I have had pretty much all of them. I'm getting ready to go teal. I think this trend could work for anyone. Confidence is key.'

And he believes nontraditional hair color is more than a passing trend.

'I think it's here to stay,' he says. 'I hope that we move toward hair like the characters in 'The Hunger Games.''

Though McFadden is not one who is offended by naysayers, she says the feedback she gets about her colorful locks is 99 percent positive, including thumbs-up from clients.

'Typically, jurors tend to respond positively -- or at least they pay attention, which is what I want as a trial lawyer,' she says.

Negative feedback typically comes from older relatives and their friends, she says.

'My hair says nothing and everything about me. It doesn't say I'm a wife, a mom of teenagers, a swimmer, a lawyer -- all of which are parts of me,' McFadden says. 'It also says I'm a little nonconventional, a little offbeat, a little irreverent, a bit bipolar -- also who I am.

'So it really means nothing but does affect first impressions. Rarely do people who first meet me believe I'm a lawyer.'

Contact Karen Nazor Hill at or 423-757-6396.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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