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Young Chicago Women Dyeing Their Hair Gray, City Stylists Say

By Alisa Hauser | August 14, 2014 6:56am
 Sophia Fedachtchin, 21, dyes her dark brown hair silver gray every six weeks.
Silver Hair Styles
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WICKER PARK — Inspired by celebs like Kelly Osbourne and Tavi Gevinson, a growing number of women — primarily in their 20s — are heading into Chicago salons asking stylists to make their hair gray.

"It happened just last night. She was in her early 20s, maybe 22 max, looked like a baby," said Erin Zimmerman, a receptionist at Art and Science salon in Wicker Park.

Zimmerman called the gray hair trend "not super common" but said that about once every few weeks, a client, usually in her 20s, goes silver. 

Zimmerman said the full head of silver "looked super cute" on the woman, who had had her naturally brown shoulder-length hair fashioned into a sleek, silvery variation of a short Bettie Page-style bob with short bangs.

 Bucktown resident Mike Runkle, 41, went completely "hot silver" by nature in his mid-30s.
Bucktown resident Mike Runkle, 41, went completely "hot silver" by nature in his mid-30s.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

While hanging out at The Wormhole coffee shop, 1462 N. Milwaukee Ave., on Tuesday, Sophia Fedachtchin, a 21-year-old Wicker Park resident, said she visited a salon in Ukrainian Village every six weeks to get her wavy dark brown hair dyed silver. 

Alisa Hauser says Wicker Park salons are seeing a lot more women "going silver":

The self-described "sassy art director" snapped selfies with her gray-haired grandparents, 78-year-old Ivan and 76-year-old Tetyana, during a recent trip to the small village in Western Ukraine where they live.

When asked what prompted the look, which Fedachtchin has been sporting since January, she said, "I just wanted it. ... I have a nymphy, mermaid-y style."

The three-part process first requires her hair to be dyed blonde; then it's whitened or bleached.

After the bleach, a toner is put on the hair to "take out the brassy yellow and make it more of an ashy white," Fedachtchin said.

At Strange Beauty Show, a salon at 1118 N. Ashland Ave., co-owner Virginia Olenick said that in the last few months she had seen a lot more people requesting lavender or silver hair and more product companies introducing those colors to their lines.

Olenick estimated that about half of her salon's clients got special effect color and from that half, about one-quarter were getting their hair dyed silver or lavender, in large part due to a trend following celebrities like Kelly Osbourne.

Additionally, clients are seeing silver hair styles on Pinterest, which "makes trends more viral and widespread," Olenick said.

Olenick said getting a full head of silver hair could cost clients between $85 to $200.

On the patio of Silver Cloud Bar and Grill in Bucktown on Tuesday, Mike Runkle, a 41-year-old advertising sales representative, said he was 36 when someone said, "Hey, you look like Anderson Cooper!"

Runkle was first told by a hairdresser that he had gray hairs when he was 17 and getting his blonde hair dyed black to play Danny Zuko, the lead role in his high school's production of the musical, "Grease."

Runkle said his gut response was, "I hate [the hairdresser]," but he "quickly decided to go with the flow" and today prefers to call his hair "hot silver."

But growing gray gracefully in your 30s is not as easy as it is for men, some women contend.

"With men, it's considered distinguished to be gray, but with women it used to be that they are just old," said Diane Wollney, a La Grange resident in her late 60s who was touring Wicker Park on Wednesday.

Wollney said she started to go gray in her 30s and decided to embrace it rather than dye her hair, in large part due to her mother-in-law who told her that younger women look lovely with gray hair.

She was surprised about the trend, however. 

"That's crazy; you have plenty of time when you are old to have silver hair," Wollney said.

For Fedachtchin, the fact she is still young is part of the fun.

"When I'm still young I can try out whatever hair color I want," she said.

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