Ah, a subject very close to my heart. Or, rather, close to my head.
Right now, I’ve got very unnatural bright-red hair with purple streaks, complemented by a septum ring, an eyebrow ring, and 5 10-gauge earrings in my left ear. Oh, yeah, and don’t forget the requisite black clothes.
I would also have a labret (a stud below my lower lip) and pierced nipples if my body had been willing to tolerate them.
It’s about the time to move into tattoos – and I’m not talking little dainty ones. They’re going to be big and bright.
And I’m not all that much younger than you, Dinsdale – 34 in 2 weeks. So for some of us it’s not just a youth thing.
Why do I do it? Several reasons:
[ul][li]I like how it looks – I’ve always found people who look different interesting, and I want to make myself look interesting too.[/li][li]I like bright colors and shiny things, and I surround myself and my self with them (well, okay, except for the black clothes, but that’s more a subculture and a weight thing). At least once a day, I catch myself just staring at a crimson strand of hair, contemplating the lovely color and shade variations. My own portable art.[/li][li]It lets me easily notify people that I do things a little differently than most people, so they maybe won’t expect behavior from me that they’re not going to get. (I don’t mean that they’ll get obnoxious behavior; I mean that they won’t get, say, a rousing sports commentary.)[/li][li]It’s an easy visual cue for others into the same subculture as I am (industrial/goth/punk). Makes it easy for us to spot each other and make contact.[/li][li]It’s a feminist statement – I don’t do the traditional girly things. (In my experience, looking different is more frowned upon for women than for men, and more for younger women than for older women.)[/li][li]I hate my natural hair color: dark brown. I’m not fond of brown in any form, yet here I am, doomed to brown hair and brown eyes if I don’t take some action. So even when my hair isn’t bright red or purple or blue, it’s a brilliant, unnatural white-blond. That’s my preferred default hair color; it’s what I like. And I’ve got 5 pairs of colored contacts to cover my brown eyes with something more interesting.[/li][li]It makes it really easy to figure out who I’m willing to talk to for more than 5 minutes: If the conversation focuses solely on how wrong I am to look this way, I can be pretty confident I’m not going to have a lasting relationship with the person I’m talking to.[/li][li]As with any appearance habit, I’ve been doing it for so long that this is normal for me. I feel naked without my jewelry or with my natural hair color. The two times I’ve had surgery in the last few years and had to take out my piercings, I was embarrassed as hell for people to see me that way and put the jewelry back in as soon as I could manage.[/li][li]My personal style is to heavily decorate everything: my home, my car, my cube at work. I decorate my body too. When I do wear make-up, it ain’t natural-looking either. It’s dramatic and bright. Spartan decorations just don’t work for me.[/li][/ul]
Is there an element of attention-getting? I suppose so. I love it when strangers come up and tell me how beautiful my hair is, or admire my eyebrow ring. I’d be just as happy if they admired my clear skin or my new shoes. (Okay, first I’d have to have clear skin.)
But that is certainly not the primary element. The primary element is that I like it and it makes me feel attractive. Sort of a bower-bird syndrome: If I display enough bright, shiny things, I’ll attract people who like bright, shiny things.
Have I had some hair disasters, where even I thought the color or style looked bad? You betcha. I’ve also had hair disasters that were completely out of my control, like a bad haircut at a cheap salon. But one benefit of having funky-colored hair is that nobody but me knew whether or not I meant it to look like that. Great camouflage!
And I learned as far back as elementary school that no matter what you look like, somebody somewhere is going to make fun of you for it. May as well go ahead and look the way I feel best.
Do other people think I look more attractive with other decoration? Sure. I’ve been told any number of times that I would look better with X haircut, Y make-up, or Z clothing. But I don’t think so, and that’s what’s important to me.