Ever since we first laid eyes on Kate Winslet's Clementine in Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, blue hair has always embodied a kind of phantasmagorical beauty in our brains — elusive, otherworldly, ephemeral. But in contrast to this dreaminess, there is also an intangible IDGAF facet to the shade. That might be why over the past year and a half, more and more celebs have taken the plunge into the deep blue sea. Nicole Richie, Demi Lovato, Sky Ferreira, Gwen Stefani, and Katy Perry (in her new CoverGirl ads) are just a few stars that come to mind. It appears that, like Picasso, we're experiencing a beauty blue period. The history of the color blue begins as one that is demure and humble. According to Anne Varichon, an anthropologist specializing in the field of color and author of Colors: What They Mean And How To Make Them, blue held no real significance until the Middle Ages, when the color came to be associated with the Virgin Mary and was then eagerly adopted by the monied upper class as a signifier of wealth. Since those early days, blue has gone through a multitude of iterations and associations, but the big turning point for the color's modern representation was the creation of jeans in the middle of the 19th century. "It created an association between blue and work. But in the 1930s, jeans became synonymous with leisure and; in 1960, rebellion, with the hippie movement; and finally, youth, leading the color blue to become more and more significant," says Varichon. Because of how commonplace the color became, it evolved from a hue of decadence to one of conformity. "Today, the color blue, which has become consensual color: The color of the flags of international organizations and the one that any person who does not wish to be noticed wears — since, indeed, everyone wears it." But Varichon notes that this conventional color gets decidedly unconventional when seen on the lips or hair.
For many, blue in beauty remains special and exclusive — a color that somehow manages to capture the inner thoughts and emotional tapestry of the wearer and convey that complexity and power to the world. "Blue is this very interesting color where it's very bold and very daring, but it has that calming factor," notes Hairstory colorist Roxie Darling. Funnily enough, it's also a way to reclaim one's power. "Blue has pretty much been a predominately male color, so I think that a girl choosing it is kind of interesting, because it's such a masculine color. Blue also can mean safe," says Darling. "Blue is a very safe color." Hair icon Christiaan Houtenbos — who recently added a bold blue stripe to his chameleon mane and called it his "blue moment" — agrees, noting the reaction he gets to his new blue hair is very different than with other colors. "[With other colors] I would get suspicious stares or disapproving glances. Ever since this blue stripe, I see people glance at it and I see their expressions mostly go to smiles. It's kind of bizarre, because that doesn’t happen if you color your hair orange. There must be something about the blue that doesn’t offend, [but rather] attracts. Blue is one of the kindest colors."
The argument can also be made that blue hair is a way of taking back one's sense of self — as demonstrated by the celebs listed above, who were all experiencing shifts in their lives and careers pre-blueing. Experts say that when women find themselves defined by a certain aspect — specifically relationships — that dynamic shifts and it can lead to a desire to reclaim a separate identity and reinvent one's self. Dr. Erica Slotter, a social psychologist and assistant professor at Villanova University, notes that when involved in a romantic relationship, many women's sense of identity changes. "We tend to become more similar to our partners over time. We take on some of their characteristics and they take on some of ours. Essentially, we create a sense of ourselves within the context of the relationship. So, it follows that when a relationship ends, our sense of identity has to change again. Specifically, we have to renegotiate who we are in the absence of a partner who was influential in shaping us." Dr. Slotter says that the change to who you are after a breakup contributes to a reaction called self-concept clarity (SCC). "Low levels of SCC tend to predict emotional distress and poorer well-being. We find that after the end of a relationships, people feel that their identity is changing and this predicts them feeling less certain about who they are." So what better way to create your independent identity and start off on a new chapter of your life than by going balls to the wall with a unique, unexpected hair color? Traditionally, when a woman was looking to reinvent herself or emotionally detach herself from a look, a change in hairstyle, with guidelines, of course, was the way to go. Not so anymore, says Houtenbos — the rules have been thrown out and it's the wild, wild west of hair. "The color thing has nothing to do anymore with 'does it flatter me?' It's just about making an arbitrary choice that doesn’t really relate to anything else." In short: You do you.
Darling sees a connection with this identity exploration and communication by hair. "Blue is really ethereal and it's also associated with the throat chakra, so it's very good for expressing yourself clearly and for hearing other people," she says. "Maybe that's why the color is great for women who are trying to come out — they're like 'I need to express myself and this color is going to help me do it.'" Says Varichon, "To dye one’s hair blue was still iconoclastic a few years ago. But if culture imprints its customs on individuals, it is also an invention of individuals. And as the number of young people choosing this color for their hair is growing, it becomes less and less surprising." Meaning a blue 'do is most likely not going to elicit questions about your post-breakup mental state of mind. Well, depending on how conservative your social circle is. If you do decide to do the blue, Darling urges you to do so responsibly — meaning don't get it done and be miserable about the choice or present yourself in a negative way — you aren't doing yourself, or your hair, any big favors. "With that color you need to make sure that you're ready for it, because you're representing it in other people's brains. So if you're not going to be the beautiful characteristics of blue, don't make your hair blue," adds Darling. "I feel that way about every color. And as a hair colorist, I feel responsible for making sure that people are wearing a color that matches their personality." Mermaid hair as therapy — who knew?