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Blonde hair is cheugy — welcome to the era of the brunette

Jessica Benjamin has the new hues to ask for, and the stylists’ top tips on how to go dark

14 Jan 2022

If you’ve just proudly stepped out of your New Year salon appointment, freshly bleached tresses flowing in the breeze, I’ve got some bad news for you: blonde hair is officially uncool.

Gen Z have been ruthlessly wielding their axe for some time, cancelling side partings, smoky eyes, skinny jeans and lasagne — and now, they’ve come for your highlights, branding them as the dreaded “cheugy”.

Yes, TikTokers have heralded the return of the “mousy brown-haired boring girl aesthetic” (their words, not mine), or “Rory Gilmore core season” (Lorelai’s daughter in Gilmore Girls). Others have been slightly more brutal (“maturing is realising brunette hair is better than fried blonde hair”. Ouch).

Billie Eilish

/ Getty Images for Variety

It seems like the departure from uber-cool platinum blonde has come around quickly, but the fast-paced nature of Gen Z trends is nothing new. From Y2K-inspired chunky highlights to the notorious shag haircut, the continuous reinvention of hairstyles is a by-product of the shorter trend cycles that have been borne out of TikTok and Instagram influencer culture, with brunette barnets just the latest in a long line of micro trends.

And it’s not just influencers: celebs are also behind the move to brunette, with stars from Gigi Hadid to Hailey Bieber, Billie Eilish to Florence Pugh ditching the bleach and opting for warmer tones this winter.

Gigi Hadid

/ Getty Images

If you — like me — are now staring dismally at your expensive balayage and wondering how soon your hairdresser can fit you in, don’t panic just yet. Declan Haworth, Colour Director/Induction and Development Manager at Blue Tit, is sceptical of the trend. “As if blonde hair would ever go out of fashion?” he says, aghast. “Granted, I would have to agree that some blondes could maybe have had their day... maybe the ‘full head bleach/artificial looks’ are seen as a bit ‘cheugy’,” he admits.

So what are the options that don’t involve impulse-buying a bottle of Nice’n Easy? Sophia Karayiannis, assistant manager at Blue Tit Crouch Hill, suggests a gradual change might be the answer. “If you’re looking to still have brightness in your hair but not be a blonde, think of it as contouring — we place lighter pieces to match your skin tone around your face. The mixture of natural darker colours and the lighter colours adds both depth and dimensions, brightening your hair without having a full head of blonde and possible split ends,” she explains.

And if you’re still not convinced, just wait it out for a little while, as Haworth suggests: “I bet a pound to a penny that given a few years when these pre-teens can afford a decent hair colour service and understand how colour can enhance oneself they won’t be thinking they look ‘cheugy’,” he reassures me. Thank you, Declan— I think we all needed that.

Hailey Bieber

/ Instagram/haileybieber

Three Gen-Z approved hair colours

1. Gingerbread

Can’t quite commit to full-throttle brunette? A sandy gingerbread shade is your friend. Described as being ‘on the edge of dark blonde’ by colourist Daniel Moon, it’s more on-trend than platinum and still gives you the option to lighten back up when summer rolls around.

2. Chocolate milk

Equally as delicious-sounding but slightly darker on the spectrum, chocolate milk is the optimal shade for healthy looking hair. Think glossy, luxurious and sleek, this is the colour of shampoo advert heaven. Weave in slightly golden strands for full impact and depth of colour.

3. Sable

For those fully devoted to the anti-bleach cause, go sable for spring. Rich, dark and expensive-looking, sable is a deep all-over colour that screams ‘I’m far too chic to ever get a split end’. Looks great, yes, but be warned: it’s difficult to go back to blonde after committing to sable.