Earlier this week, 26-year-old Zosia Mamet, known for her portrayal of the speedy-sputtering Shoshanna on HBO's hit series Girls and currently promoting the upcoming A Most Violent Year, showed up at a press junket sporting a new look that had paparazzi and trend-watchers alike look twice: a newly minted choppy bob of 'antique gray' hair.
It would have raised more eyebrows had Mamet not been the latest in a stream of young celebrities experimenting with gray: Kylie Jenner tipped her raven mane with gray, and both Orange Is the New Black's Dascha Polanco and hair chameleon Rihanna have stepped out onto the red carpet with unicorn-like gray ponytails.
Related Story When a Woman on TV Is in Distress, She Cuts Her Hair Off
Gray hair's closest predecessor was platinum hair, which slowly morphed into a darker iteration. In the aughts, gray was sneered at as the province of British hipsters, but it still managed to make its way, sporadically, to the covers of high-fashion magazines.
Four years ago, Tavi Gevinson was still blogging from Oak Park, Illinois, as the bespectacled Style Rookie, her pageboy locks a washed out slate blue-gray. More recently, Nicole Richie, Lady Gaga, and Pink, and Kelly Osbourne have followed suit.
Gray has, classically, been associated with monotony. The dictionary offers a dank picture of the emotions evoked by the color: 'cloudy, overcast, dull, sunless, gloomy, dreary, somber, bleak, and murky' in terms of weather; 'ashen, wan, pale, pasty, pallid, colorless, bloodless, white, waxen' for images related to age; and 'colorless, nondescript, insipid, jejune, unremarkable, flat, bland, dry, stale,' for a subdefinition of 'without interest or character.'
For all the color's blahness, it's seeing an unexpected rise in popularity among the Millennial Instagram set. Gray has found a resurgence as a shade that is both natural and supernatural, with Pinterest pages celebrating the rainbow of women, grinning and gray, as 'hot.' Sometimes the color is referred to as 'silver,' along with 'Arctic' or 'icy,' for understandable reasons. G ray connotes dull, elderly, and boring, but s ilver is magical, sophisticated, and chic. Grandmas have gray hair; starlets have silver hair.
In practice, the color exists on a spectrum. 'If you picture someone with salt-and-pepper hair, the salt is more the silver, and the pepper is more of a gray,' said Susan Hurley, color director with Chicago's Art and Science salons. '[Silver is] a lighter gray. More people prefer the silver versus the gray, but not by much.'
Hurley has been in the hair color business for 20 years, 15 of those as colorist. She grew up in a family whose members grayed quickly, in their 20s-and celebrated it. Gray, for the 34-year-old brunette, is ' avante garde, a classic sort of feel.'
'Women and men gravitate towards cooler colored hair; gold is not friendly for an average client,' Hurley said, referring to the color wheel that informs much of her day-to-day work in matching complexions with hair color.
Despite its ubiquity in older people of all ethnicities, gray is quite the dye job to have and maintain. Gray's artificial sister silver is also surprisingly nitpicky with respect to hair tone and complexion.