I think many of us have had negative associations with the term “blue hair.” We think of older women with white hair except their hair looks unintentionally blueish. It has an odd blue tint. I always thought that was the aftermath of a certain hair dye on white hair. We often speak negatively about all the “blue hairs” at a particular event as if to message that everyone in attendance is old. I used to go to symphony years ago and remark at all the white-blue Q-Tips that occupied the rows in front of me. A sea of Q-Tips. It made me feel classical music was on the way out.
I have a new view now on blue hair and here’s the story why. It needs to progress chronologically; so stay with me here. It’s a long story but worth it I think.
My partner and I were going to a Cher concert in DC. We wanted a fun night out. Sort of a pre-holiday excursion. Knowing it was Cher performing (I had followed her for years including with Bono), I asked my partner if he had thoughts on what one wears to a Cher concert. I’m keen these days on using clothes to message.
He suggested a wig. Perhaps he was kidding but I thought it was a perfect idea. Cher uses many wigs. Problem: I didn’t have a wig and it was the night before the event. Too late for Amazon. So, I set out to get an inexpensive wig in the DC area; I didn’t have much time. I wanted an uplifting wig. I proceeded to a party story near Reagan Airport (after considerable Googling and a phone call) and parked underground at a construction site (apt given that my “costume” was under construction so to speak) and set about finding the party store and a wig.
Well, who knew? Party wigs come in different colors and styles, each for about $20. There was red and orange and navy. There was pink with blue; there was green; there was bright yellow. And then there was teal. There are salespeople who give you advice, because if you open the package, you own it. They explain how the wigs look. And you need the right size.
In the same store, there was a boa that matched and bright New Orleans Marti Gras beads in a similar shape. It took some 15 minutes to ponder what was the Cher look I was after. Teal blue. That was it. The manager said, “You’ll fit right in.”
To be clear and upfront, I have never done anything quite like this before. I wear costumes when I read books to children. I even wear the colors of my characters and often put color wash out streaks in my hair — green, orange, pink, red. My normal hair is gray; the color streaks show up nicely. Kids like it. It’s light hearted. I used to refer to my academic presidential robes as a costume, until people said I was degrading those who respected academic tradition. I never fit in that robe and traded the fancy one for an almost disposable one at some point but yes, I kept the four chevrons.
Back to the story. I dressed up for the concert. What you see above is how I looked. The sun glasses were a last minute accessory. And, off to the concert we went on the Metro. It was odd but in DC, few people seemed to even notice my hair — until we got to the arena. I guess “odd hair” is part of the scene in today’s world, given the hair in the White House. Not sure if that is a wig.
As I walked into the arena, a guard opened a special non-crowded door for me. The personnel at the ticket entrance remarked that I was “ready for Cher.” Walking to our seats, a man touched my shoulder as he walked in the opposite direction and said, “You go girl. Have fun tonight.”
Our seats were high above the stage and there was a good opening act and we settled in. Then after a considerable pause, Cher came on stage (onto a beautiful set. Her image was blown up on an enormous side screen. But here is the startling part of her entry. She was wearing a teal wig. I kid you not. She was wearing a vastly more expensive and slightly longer version of my teal wig. I was stunned. We matched. I had no idea. Here’s how she looked (after she took off a matching teal blue down). Yes, for the record, my clothes did not match (although I do have some similar outfits that never leave the apartment).
After the first song, Cher commented specifically on her blue wig. She asked the crowd, “Do You Like It? It’s new.” Applause. Then she proceeded to one side of the stage and said in so many words: “You young women out there: if you have a dream, follow it. Be bold.” Then, she walked to the other side of the stage and said in so many words,“You older women out there. Wear a blue wig. Now is your time in life to do whatever you want to do. It is your moment to be whomever you want to be.”
Wow. What a message to women of all ages: Do what your dreams tell you and be who you are and experience life. Her blue wig was the message carrier. I was on a “blue hair high” for the rest of the show, even as the Cher hair colors changed from blue to black to white to red. The bob style changed too.
The exit from the show and the trip home on the Metro were totally different in feel from my entry. People saw my wig and said things like and with a smile: “Cher look alike.” “You must have gotten the memo.” “Do you know Cher?” “You look amazing.”
Now, I did have a wee wig malfunction getting on the Metro in a crowded car but people laughed as I replaced the wig atop my head. Proudly I might add. It actually looked better — a tad fluffier and a little looser in style.
After we got home, with Cher music playing in the background, I started looking online and apparently, there are many postings/tweets/articles about her new blue hair and its messaging. She’s ageless, people said. The brilliant blue was a statement wig, defying the blue haired ladies who are “over the top” in terms of age. Cher is over the top in a different sense but not in terms of age.
Here’s a key point: I wore my blue teal wig without knowing Cher was going to wear one. Consider the evening karma. Or, consider it an event that launched the equivalent message of the poem from the poem, When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple. I have been wearing purple for decades. I got my first job in a large NYC law firm wearing purple, something the hiring partner remembered a decade later. He commented, “who wore purple to a job interview in 1980? No one.”
Now I have my teal wig. I will wear it to children’s book readings. My dragon character Dillon is blue. And the unicorn in my children’s books is Tapestry, and I might need a shiny sparkly white/pink wig to represent her.
Blue hair doesn’t mean you are old, based on this Cher experience. It means you are living your life as you want to lead it. I am 67 years young and plan to enjoy the next 20 years (while doing good for others), wearing the symbolic blue teal wig, if not the real wig itself.
So, if you see me at a presentation or in a street or at a book signing or an event and I am wearing a blue teal wig or some other fashion statement, come over and say hello. I’d welcome meeting you. Blue hair is a good thing.
A version of this article first appeared on Medium.
Karen is an educator and an author. Prior to becoming a college president, she was a tenured law professor for two plus decades. Her academic areas of expertise include trauma, toxic stress, consumer finance, overindebtedness and asset building in low income communities. She currently serves as Senior Counsel at Finn Partners Company. From 2011 to 2013, She served (part and full time) as Senior Policy Advisor to the US Department of Education in Washington, DC. She was the Department's representative on the interagency task force charged with redesigning the transition assistance program for returning service members and their families. From 2006 to 2014, she was President of Southern Vermont College, a small, private, affordable, four-year college located in Bennington, VT. In Spring 2016, she was a visiting faculty member at Bennington College in VT. She also teaches part-time st Molly Stark Elementary School, also in Vt. She is also an Affiliate of the Penn Center for MSIs. She is the author of adult and children’s books, the most recent of which are titled Breakaway Learners (adult) and Lucy’s Dragon Quest. Karen holds a bachelor degree in English and Spanish from Smith College and Juris Doctor degree (JD) in Law from Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law.