Unnatural hair color and extravagant piercings

Could any of you help dispel this aged fuddy’s ignorance concerning why some (generally) young people dye their hair colors such as blue, purple or green, or why they have multiple or very prominent piercings?

I guess I generally figure someone presents themselves in a particular manner to either appeal to someone else, or to make a statement.

I really don’t care what anyone chooses to do with their body, but I am curious if any generalizations can be made about these “styles.” I’m sure this question has been asked by every generation. Hell, I have entire albums full of embarrassing photos from when I was in high school in the 70s.

I’ve dyed my hair some bright/unnatural colors and I have a few piercings, but I’m not too young - I’m 25.

A few reasons why I do/done it. (not speaking for anyone else)

-it’s pretty.
-it gets me out of a blah funk. Some inexpressible feeling of overwhelming ordinary-ness.
-I’ve done it for special occasions. Dyed my hair Ronald McDonald red for Jan 1, 2000 party.
-I just like it.

I often dye my girlfriend’s hair for her. Right now it’s a violet in the sunlight, and red-brown indoors. It’s lovely. I wish that hair came in more colors than it does. Shades of green, blue and violet, expressive and lovely. Deep and calming like the ocean. Bright orange and red, lively and striking. Full of energy and reaching out, happily. sigh Who’s to blame me for liking it when someone changes their outside to match who they are inside? After all, we’re all a canvas, it just depends on what sort of artist we are. Some of us are Wyeth, some of us are Klimt. It’s the same for piercings, as I see it. If I am lovely with jewels, or if I am stark and simple, it is who I am. This is how I see it, anyway. :slight_smile:

Cool. Thanks for the responses. It is interesting that reasonable people’s perspectives/tastes can differ so much on something as minor as this. I certainly do not presume to speak for everyone my age (I’m 40), but I personally do not find “unnatural” colored hair attractive. Same for, for instance, anything more than say a simple stud in the nose. That’s fine, because I doubt many younger folk are trying to catch the eye of this old married guy with kids!

From my limited perspective, loud hair or major/multiple piercings seem intended to draw attention to oneself. Making a statement, as it were. I personally have never really wanted to draw attention to myself. And tho I do not spend overmuch effort in grooming, neither do I go out of my way to make myself appear unusual or unattractive. I am not aware of my making any “statement” from my attire/grooming other than that I am reasonably clean and my clothes fit reasonably well and are in decent repair.

I was curious if people younger than me found it attractive. Thank you for dispelling my ignorance.

When I was in college I toyed with the idea of dyeing my hair candy-apple red, at that time my favorite color. But the cost of bleaching my dark-brown roots every month to maintain the color was too rich for my blood.

Maybe this is the distinction for us “old fogeys”: A lot of those funky-color dye jobs are just plain bad, or in the process of growing out. In real life, I’ve seen pure-color “Crayola hair” very rarely, but in magazines I’ve seen pics of people young and old with RED hair that was truly striking and attractive.

Oh, I like it sometimes.

My hair has been pink before, but it’s too much work for me to maintain these colours.

The thing is, it doesn’t seem to make much difference in how many people express that they are interested in me. People have hit on me when I had purple hair, and when it was brown.

I think it’s nice that it’s getting more socially acceptable for us to do these things- it means that we need to find more clever and perverse ways to rebel against society.

There’s blue hair dye available at local pharmacies in Boston, now, by Clairol.

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.


Why did I dye my hair purple?
*To piss off my mom
*To be different
*I was tired of my boring brown hair
*I like the attention

Why did I strip the purple out 2 weeks later?
*My boss told me if I didn’t, I was either fired or I had to give up my management position. It didn’t project the professional image they were looking for. I can’t afford to make car payments etc on a crew salary, so I went back to the salon. I now vary between “natural” colors. Last monnth, I was strawberry blond. This month,I’m thinking a deep auburn color

My hair is candy-apple red right now. It’s very high maintainence, but a friend of mine swears she can “taste” the color.

Mine was also bright red. It tasted like cinnamon.

jeyen summed it up really well so I’m not gonna “me too”.

Kudos to Dinsdale for asking a (ahem!) freighted question so simply and honestly. And to those who answered in the same spirit. Fascinating stuff. Dang, I love this place!

This will be rambling (so what else is new?) but the feelings and reasons behind the dye, piercings, etc. sounded so right. I developed a lethal case of dry heaves ages ago over hyped “generational” labels but danged if the talk here doesn’t ring true.

The expression may differ from age to age but it’s a progression, not a battle. Do I want tattoos, piercing or wildly eccentric hair for myself? Nope; went through that stage (albeit wimpily) already. But the zestful rebel questing/testing phase is just part of getting life lived.

Sometimes “the youngsters” can seem like mutant species, eerily technologically apt but oddly disengaged; brittle, even. I’m constantly suprised, exhilarated and grateful to the folks here, younger and older, who make happy hash of all the labels.

Okay, maybe I’ll consider a tattoo sometime. Hmmm.


Here’s why i do them.

Since i’m just NOW getting a somewhat unusual ear pierce i cant really talk too much on that except to say that i’m doing it because I absolutely fell in love with the piercing (Called an “industrial”). I’m not doing it to attract attention per say, although i’m sure it will attract some.

But with my hair, i dye it because I just find unusual colors much nicer and interesting than my usual haircolor, a rather monotone dark brown (I’m really only into shades of blue and red for haircolor, since I think these look best on me). I do find unusual haircolors attractive, and a lot of my friends are into it, so i guess it’s a kind of aerial influence. Also as jeyen said, it does let me know who is probably not worth my time to invest in getting to know them (same with my tattoos)

I dont even need hair-dye, piercings, or tattoos to draw attention to myself. The shirts I wear do that quite nicely :D.

This reminds me of an argument a high school classmate of mine had with her mother over hair dye. The mother said, “If you’re going to dye your hair, why don’t you dye it a color that looks natural?” My friend said, “If I’m going to dye my hair, why should I limit myself to colors that look natural?”

Plenty of people who dye their hair “natural” colors end up looking pretty artificial anyway. I’m sure we’ve all seen obvious bleached blondes or dyed blacks, or “redheads” so artificial that they couldn’t have been less convincing if they’d actually gone ahead and dyed their hair the color of a red crayon.

I think a lot of the reason why unusual hair colors & mulitple piercings can seem unattractive is because a lot of people who do those things also go out of their way to be unattractive in other ways: they wear unflattering, drab clothes, they don’t wash their hair enough, they do ghastly things (or not enough) with makeup, they walk around with a “me vs. the world” scowl all the time. You wouldn’t be pretty if you did that no matter what color your hair was or how many earrings you wore! I used to dye my hair jet black with a big candy-apple red streak up front, & right now it’s purple, but most people, even “old people” think I look pretty, because I wash & curl my hair every day, wear clothes that play up my figure instead of hiding it, & smile all the time.

& you don’t do it unless you want attention, but grooming oneself in order to attract attention is by no means restricted to young people.

Stella, I will try to clarify some without flaming.

You said:

Um, aren’t Dockers and sweatshirts and baseball caps unflattering and drab? Dark clothing does not necessarily equal unflattering or drab clothing. This is a completely subjective thing – what one person finds unflattering or drab, another person finds flattering or brilliant. (Okay, I doubt anybody thinks that gray sweatsuits are flattering or brilliant.)

You said:

There’s lots of reasons not to wash your hair every day. See my comments in this thread about maintaining unnatural hair colors. Also, many people deliberately use hair products that make their hair look greasier or tangled. That’s their preference. But you don’t know that they aren’t washing their hair regularly unless you ask them. (Or smell them! :eek: )

I’m happy for you that you have the time, money, and patience to both wash your hair every day and keep it colored. But ain’t no way I’m going to do that – it’s too much work. Same reason I don’t curl my hair, put on make-up every day, or shave. (Ooops, TMI.) Also, the more you wash, the faster the color washes out. I don’t have time to redye every month. Every other month will usually do.

You said:

The ghastly things are deliberate. Some of us like it that way. As for “not enough” – that one makes me cringe. Make-up is not a requisite part of existence. See my note above about too much work. And my notes above that about what people find attractive.

You said:

Umm, have you looked at the expressions on your fellow beings much? A whole lot of them have that sort of expression. Not all of those sport unnatural hair, piercings, or Dockers. Look at the less obvious people more; you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Now, if you’re talking about, say, high-school aged people, well, of course, they’re looking pissed. High school sucks, especially if you look different. But if you’re talking about a bunch of goths at a party, it’s a completely differnt story. See this site or this site for images of goths having a good time. (Warning: These images may dispel myths about goths being solemn and despairing all the time.)

You said:

You have way more free time than I have, and probably less hair. I’d rather sleep that extra hour.

Dockers comparison again: Do people really think that Dockers flatter the figure? I sure don’t. Preference, preference, preference.

I’m going to assume from that statement that you’re thin. If I’m wrong, my congratulations on your positive body image. The goth/industrial/fetish community is very unforgiving of larger people. I often do not wear clothes that accentuate my figure because I don’t want to emphasize just how full it is. Especially when I know I’ll be mingling with waifish women with tiny breasts, and the men who like them. Again, wearing clothes that accentuate your figure is a matter of preference.

I’m happy for you that you’re happy, or that you’re willing to make other people think that you are. I’m not always happy, and I’m not going to smile all the time to make people think that I am. I reserve my smiles for occasions of genuine amusement and happiness.

In conclusion, I reiterate that most of what you’re saying comes down to preference. And a lot of the rest comes down to subculture and what you’re familiar with.

I hope I didn’t sound too much like I’m flaming! I’m just trying to present my side of the discussion. No harm intended.

Best wishes.


I’m 17 and while I don’t have any piercings (not even my ears), I do have unnatural hair colour. (Although I chickened out, a little … I only got foils and didn’t go the whole nine yards, although the overall effect is similar.) At the moment, my streaks are bright red - but they have been pink, purple, orange and blue in the past. I dyed my hair mainly due to aesthetic reasons - it’s pitch black, so bright colours look fantastic with it. Additionally, I love accessorising my hair with my clothing. Even on days that I don’t wear make-up, the fact that my hair matches my top or skirt or dress makes it look like I’ve made the effort.

The down side is that the maintenance is shocking. Not to mention the roots when I’m too lazy to go to the hairdresser. And of course, everybody, everybody comes up to me and says “You’ve got roots, you know”.

“Oh really? Thanks - I didn’t notice.” Thwack

Well this is news to me! Having spent some 8 years of in art school, I’ve known a goth or 2…
And I’ve known more than my share of less than waifish ones.
In fact, I’d have to say that I’ve known a LOT more larger than thiner goths.
Just a casual observation.

As to the second part, I’d have to agree. My 4 ear rings (admitedly tame by many standards) were useful as a means of weeding out the people I wouldn’t want to talk to in the first place. If you were freaked out by THAT, there’s no need trying to get to know me much more than that.

Same here. I have my eyebrow pierced, and damn if it doesn’t look cute as hell. (Here’s a good pic of it: http://www.smackfu.com/photos/dope-thespos/DSC00032.JPG)

But I always get folks who stare at my eyebrow like it’s sprouting spinach. Usually I’ll say, “You can touch it if you want!” and if they recoil in horror, I don’t waste too much breath on them. If they do touch it, well then, I think they’re pretty kick-ass. My mom won’t even touch it.

My hair is a different color every month, but usually just shades of red and brown. (Right now it’s a chocolate-brown color with hints of red). I was blonde my senior year, but that was as extreme as I ever got. I did blue streaks once, but they looked grey. I do, however, possess some odd clothing and jewelry. I have a lot of ethnic jewelry, some African stuff, a lot of Tibetan stuff. Usually I wear it sparingly; I still get some weird looks. And I have this weird penchant for old men’s vintage pants. I have five pair. Again, usually I wear them with a plain black shirt from GAP and black loafers, so I don’t look particularly odd, but people notice. And anyone who looks down their nose at me recieves nothing but disdain in return.

Why do I do it? I got my eyebrow pierced because I read in an Anthropological text that ancient African tribes considered facial piercings a sign of beauty and/or royalty. Same thing for my jewelry - puca shells, for instance (I use the example because I’m wearing them now) resemble the female genitalia, and are thought to bring love and sex to the wearer. Frankly, I need all the help I can get, and am currently trying to get a shirt and skirt ensemble made entirely from pucas. I have some beautiful cuff bracelets inscribed with Tibetan prayers - my favorite says “Find sweet peace in the heart of the Lotus.”

I dye my hair because my natural color was boring - really, I don’t even remember what color it was. It’s been years.

And I wear odd clothes (a lot of vintage stuff too - my best friend’s family owns a vintage clothing store and I get a 40% discount) because jeans are boring. My wardrobe in 70% GAP and 30% vintage. It allows me to create my own style, and of all else, I really hate being ordinary.

I would never ascribe myself to any style (Goth or the like) - I do try to be individual. If nothing else, my style is a conversation piece, and I make friends because they complement my plaid pants or my jewelry. It’s just another way for me to express my individuality.

Blue hair… $10
Septum piercing… $20 (thank god for friends)
Tatoos… $too much

The way people go out of their way to avoid me at the mall… Priceless.
In all seriousness, the blue hair is just fun, but I usually go green. I keep my head generally shaved (ease of maintenance and it pisses off my parents), but when it grows out a bit I generally bleach it then dye it. I’m thinking about actually growing it out now though.

The nose ring? I just wanted something I didn’t see on alot of people, plus i’m half Taurus so it was fitting. I’m going to get my nips done when Bonnie gets back in town.

Tatoos? I just like them. I figure i’m still young and have plenty of time to look back and go “What the Hell was I thinking?!?” then have a few laughs (then have a heart attack when my kids if [I have them] gets one of the above)

…and since I just did a bracket in a parenthesis, I must go…

punk snot dead,

What a perfect thread…

I just ended my short but fruitful foray as a bleached blonde and dyed my hair Punky Colors Red Wine.

My bathroom cabinet right now has four half used vats of punky colors (purple, red wine, rose red and blue-black), a mostly gone tube of Velvet Blue Paintbox, a tube of somebody else’s Punky Colors Violet Moon gel that I wish was mine, an assortment of bleaches and a lone bottle of brown hairdye from my failed mission at “normal” hair color.

Why do I do it? I think that so many of the things that “normal” people do for beauty are so outright wierd, that if you are going to do anything it might as well do what is fun. It is fun to wake up in the morning a brush your pink hair. It is fun to watch the changes as it fades and changes. It is fun to have little kids smile at you when you walk past (although, once a seven year old called my green-haired companion’s dye job “stupid”). It is fun to do what so many people have wanted to do but don’t because of fear.

I can’t tell you how many people have told me that they have always wanted to dye their hair something interesting. These arn’t just young people either. I have had my friend’s mothers tell me that they wish they could do their hair like mine. Lots of older people never had the chance to have that kind of expression, so it makes me happy that they can live vicariously through me, even if they disguise it with disapproval. I think that it’s sad that our social bonds are do tight that we face disapproval and more if we dare to use a hair dye that falls outside of the “natural” spectrum. It isn’t a big deal for me, because if they dissapprove of my hair I can live without them, but it is different for the fourty year old that could lose her nine to five job just because she always wondered what blue would look like on her.

I’m not trying to say that my hair dye habits are bringing great social change, but it makes me very happy and maybe it can bring some good along with it.