Brunette ambition in tough times

WITH the economic golden days over and the job market still precarious, who has time to spend 72 minutes a day on their appearance? Blondes, apparently, who – according to recent research by hair care company Goody – take more time than women of any other hair colour to get ready to go out, be it to work or to play.

Yet time is money, which might explain why more and more women are going darker. And there’s the fact – perhaps the most important – that while blondes have all the fun, they often struggle to be taken seriously. These are serious times and gravitas is a crucial ingredient for success at work, as the increasing numbers of women ditching the peroxide will tell you.

“We’ve definitely seen a trend over the past year with blondes going darker,” says Kell Scott, of Kell Scott Haircare in Notting Hill. “People are going back to brunette – that’s been very noticeable,” he says, including his formerly blonde wife among the women who have gone brown. “It could be something to do with looking more serious and reflecting the times – looking more substantial in the boardroom perhaps.” Scott says women are favouring more severe hairstyles too – thick fringes and shorter bobs to achieve the right look at work (but they are not, he says, sacrificing their femininity).

Kara Aswell, of swanky salon Michaeljohn in Mayfair, says she’s also seeing women trading their bleached blonde locks for the au naturel, darker look – all part of a pared-down package that denotes less frippery, more work. “Lots of women are going for something darker now,” says Aswell. “Over the past year, people have been looking for something more subdued – that’s not to say that nobody’s getting their highlights done, of course, but there is a desire to look more subtle and serious.” Even Hollywood is going dark – stars such as Charlize Theron, Reese Witherspoon and Mena Suvari have all traded signature blonde for soft brown.

Joanna Elias, a London-based NHS manager, went blonde at 14. But when she hit 26, and began her management career, she decided it was time to go dark. “I went brown to be taken more seriously,” she says. “I said to myself: I’m grown up now, there’s no need to peroxide my hair, especially when I want to be a manager. It seemed childish.” She has worn her hair poker straight and deep brown for a year – during which she has also invested heavily in a safely elegant work wardrobe – and hasn’t looked back.

Alice Berry, another long-term blonde working in the City, traded her bombshell locks for dark auburn hair last week. Aside from the fact that she was tired of the catcalls, which she attributes to her blondeness (ranging from “hello sausage” to “fancy a picnic?”), she was ready for the change for several reasons. “First, it’s jolly expensive having your roots done every two months,” she says. “Who has the extra cash for that now? And there’s no doubt about it, people are taking me more seriously. Last but not least, my journey to work is far more pleasant without all the jeers and whistles from builders – I now arrive with peace of mind rather than unsettled and agitated.”

Until the economic mood improves, brunettes are likely to reign supreme in the hair stakes. Serious and subtle is the new fun and fancy-free – it’s time to redefine “bombshell”.