Women have been proponents of the blue rinse since Hollywood starlet Jean Harlow rocked her platinum locks in the 1930 film Hell’s Angels. Her pin-up curls may have been envy-worthy, but it was the bleach blond, almost snow white, hue of her hair that become iconic. On the silver screen, Harlow’s glow looked au natural—but it was actually thanks to a little chemical called Methylene blue.
A decade later, when Queen Elizabeth was spotted sporting Harlow’s hair trick, countless women adopted the blue rinse into their daily routines; the Methylene blue transformed graying hair from a drab, yellowish color to a radiant, slightly blue-tinted look. The “Blue Rinse Brigade,” as they were dubbed, didn’t fear the potential of stepping out like a pack of Smurfs.
Like most trends, the blue rinse began to fade with time, becoming associated with, mostly, our aging grandmothers who hit the salon every two weeks for a dye job and “bouf” (as mine calls it). Although the “Blue Rinse Brigade” may have hit its heyday (in 2006, blue rinse was removed from the shelves of Asda, Tesco, and Superdrug), Hollywood’s young set is helping the tinted hue make a comeback.
On Monday, Nicole Richie debuted her latest Technicolor hairstyle—a side-swept Cerulean low bun—on Good Morning America. The color was a shock, naturally, but since Richie’s previous hue was bright lavender, it seemed less of a mad decision and more of an on-trend shift.
“[Wild hair color] is a form of rebellion,” Gina Guercia, director of product development and artistry for Oscar Blandi products, and celebrity stylist, tells The Daily Beast. “This generation of celebrities seems to be willing to take more risks. They usually also mirror what is happening in fashion, so it was inevitable.”
Guercia, whose clientele includes Catherine Zeta-Jones, Mariah Carey, Whitney Port, and Zoe Kravitz, refers to the recent insurgence of dyed locks on the runway as seen at, for example, Marc Jacobs’ Fall/Winter 2014 collection (the wigs were light pink), as well as models including Chloe Norgaard and Charlotte Free, both who have become immensely popular not just for their catwalk talent, but their wild-and-crazy ’dos.
Although pink and purple have become extremely common, blue, in particular, has seemingly gone from Marge Simpson to mainstream.
In March, popular beauty site Into the Gloss even published a how-to on getting blue-tinted hair. “With Nicole Richie’s new purple ’do, and Ireland Baldwin going lilac a few hours later,” Elizabeth Brockway wrote, “maybe it’s a sign that it’s time to start exploring non-natural shades of hair color once again.”
“Colored hair has been in and out for a few years, but this past year it’s really taken off,” says Guercia. “It started with the youth, then to the fashion industry, but has transcended to all walks of life. Once celebrities started catching on, it gave everyday people the courage to take such a big hair risk.”
In 2011, Katy Perry was one of the first public figures to don an array of multi-color hairstyles and wigs—but when she dyed her hair blue, the crowd went wild.
“I was shocked by all the crazy reactions that people had to the blue ’cause I thought going from black to pink would have been the major reaction people would have,” Perry told MTV in January 2012. “But I kind of like that people are loving the blue ’cause I’m obsessed with blue. So any shade of blue, I’m loving. I know it’s not natural, but it sort of works in a natural way.”
The singer’s longtime hair colorist, Rita Hazan, echoed Perry’s sentiment, highlighting that colored locks can be classified in the same category as blonde or brunette. “Of course, being Katy, she is a lot more edgy and she’s cooler and she likes to take a lot of risks. And I love that she’s like, ‘I’m feeling a little blue, let’s go blue’—not in her energy, just in her hair color,” she said. “I felt like it’s the perfect color for her because her eyes are blue and she has the perfect skin tone to be a really vibrant, really cool, intense blue.”
Other young stars also sported the “trend,” although not as dramatically, with fashion-forward icons like Jaime King, Kate Bosworth, and yes, even Kylie Jenner, opting for a turquoise, dip-dyed look. Although more subtle than Perry’s cobalt locks, seeing Bosworth hang at a Coldplay concert with her newly daring hair proved that crazy colors were no longer gimmicky—they were stylish.
Next, perhaps an even more outrageous color will emerge, or maybe there will be a reversion back to something more natural. But even if blue passes as just another fad, it will be only until we become senior citizens. Then blue will forever be in.