Most people see it as a bad sign when a woman doesn’t get around to doing something about the dark, new growth that comes after bleaching her hair. These ‘roots’, as the new growth is popularly called, are traditionally seen as sloppy to look at, but nevertheless – or perhaps for this reason – they have become hip among celebr ities and trendsetters.
Current fashion is par ticularly characterised by paradox. It seems to be about looking as if you hadn ’t given your looks a thought. Whether you look like a homeless person or a g ranny, there’s social status in not having made any effort. Accidentalism is about being smar t by accident, and is a t angent of an increasing degree of casualisation. When t he underplayed, secret and easily misunderstood have acquired status, it raises the question of whether fashion is going out of fashion. But t hat’s just the way fashion is. It is a paradoxical dynamic that is pushed forth by standing out and cop ying. Fashion survives through mixed signals so t hat trendsetters can maintain their position as long as possible
It may well be that consumers are sick of hearing about the financial crisis, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t feel it. In a historical perspective, hooker roots would signal that you didn’t have the money, time or presence of mind to get anything done about your hair roots. Today, hooker roots are something you let grow on purpose or even get done at the hairdresser. It can be a matter of signalling solidarity with those less fortunate by steering away from conspicuous consumption. You look ‘poor’ on purpose; a social signal that you have other values than the merely material. Extravagance is out, and this seems to maintain consumers in their current caution – and in this way prolong the trend of hooker roots.
Through the ages, hair has been able to communicate ethnicity, puberty, old age and social status. It can say something about group affiliation, women’s lib, subcultural identity and taste in music. From Bob Marley to punks. From mullets to Queen Elizabeth I. From Samson in the Old Testament, who loses his strength when his hair is shorn, to Rapunzel, who is a prisoner of the power in her hair. The long chains of keratin – our hair – create a foundation, so to speak, for interpreting and redefining many aspects of our lives, including how we perceive gender, sexuality, status and power. Hooker roots can be seen as a way to challenge our understanding of female ideals of beauty by celebrating what is otherwise perceived as ugly.
Consumers can identify with hooker roots even if they won’t use it as a reason to let dark roots become visible in their own hair. They can relate to the values and the signals, just not enough to act upon them. If companies understand to turn this passive, emotional identification into action, there is a potential for product development. It is a matter of studying the values and attitudes that are shared. In relation to hooker roots, companies must decide whether this trend is relevant for them by examining if the consumer’s emotivation is rooted in a protest against over-consumption, a challenge to certain ideals of beauty, or a celebration of the ‘incorrect’ in order to whet a social edge. In other words, it is less about copying the visual manifestation of a trend and more about digging deeper and looking at the emotions behind.
Even though globalisation has been a reality for some time, local belongingness – social, historic and cultural – has never released its hold on us. We still identify with our network when we consume. That is why microtrends are in the spotlight. Particularly in times of crisis, the world pulls itself in tighter, and the intimate becomes more important. Small is the new big. There’s a kind of comfort in microgroupings that share identity markers. Hooker roots are a microtrend in that they can only be seen as giving status in specific groups, while most other groups will view them as the opposite. This challenges the idea of adoption and critical mass, because trends work in small tribes rather than larger, measurable segments.
It is said that blondes have more fun (with historic exceptions like Marilyn Monroe). Perhaps the hooker roots trend should be seen in the light of a need to let go of the rational a little and let common sense snooze after a period with heavy-duty subjects on the global agenda. Bleached hair, in particular, speaks of instant gratification with no thought for tomorrow, precisely because the fair happiness is short-lived when the blonde locks aren’t real. Even if we can’t run away from reality, we can put it on hold for as long as it takes the pate colour to grow back out. Hooker roots become a reminder of rebelling against common sense and the necessity of taking a break.