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Going from blonde to red

Charlotte Butterfield, editor of Inside Out magazine, tells us how she swapped her signature blonde tresses for vampy red locks – and survived to tell the tale

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"Whenever I made a stupid comment, or a faux pas, I gave a self-deprecating chortle and a little flick of the hair, as if the blame for the daftness lay in my hair’s pigmentation."

As a journalist, and therefore by default a word-lover, I don’t think there’s any label in the dictionary that is so laden with connotations as the word ‘blonde’. As the eldest of three blonde sisters and with a glamorous blonde mother, it became our family ‘thing’.

As soon as my blonde locks started to turn darker in my angst-ridden teens, I squeezed lemon juice on my hair, sprayed it with Sun-In products and did everything short of reaching for the Toilet Duck to keep my place in the golden clan.

Looking back, I can attribute many personality traits I’ve channelled over the years to the hairstyle I had at that particular moment in time. From the pudding-bowl haircut in my early years that forced me to be cute, to the (and I’m sobbing inside as I admit this) perm in my teens that demanded a certain sassiness.

From the bleached bob at university that exuded brooding intellectualism, to the long highlighted hair hanging halfway down my back, which I felt gave me the right to embrace the boho vibe, complete with flowing skirts and beaded jewellery (a look I’ve sported for the past 15 years).

I became known for my lion’s mane and, when time and money permitted a trip to the salon, a look that combined WAG-perfect grooming with Charlie’s Angels circa 1985. Whenever I made a stupid comment, or a faux pas, I gave a self-deprecating chortle and a little flick of the hair, as if the blame for the daftness lay in my hair’s pigmentation.

When I married my ridiculously intelligent husband, who baffled me with insights into world politics, I hid behind ‘blonde moments’ with increasing regularity to cover up my ignorance of UN sanctions and the state of the Euro. In these moments I should have just said, “I have no knowledge of that of which you speak and, to be honest, little interest. But darling, we love each other, so it’s OK.”

But I didn’t. I giggled, nodded and twisted my hair around my fingers – which was fine when I was 20, but was pushing it when I was 30. When I turned 35, I conceded (to myself) that my blonde moments needed to be banished to the history books. The time had come for a change.

As I sat in Salon Ink, my stylist Tracey, herself boasting gorgeous auburn locks, convinced me that redheads actually do have more fun. So I closed my eyes and nodded my assent. Two hours later, I emerged from the salon a completely different person. No word of a lie, I stood up straighter and felt capable, strong and like the person I really wanted to be. I realised I had hidden behind my blondeness and allowed it to define me.

I’m not saying that now I’m a redhead I grasp the intricacies of economic downturns, but I’m quicker to admit my gaping abysses of ignorance, safe in the knowledge that I’m the proud owner of even larger chasms of wisdom.

At work I feel I’m being taken more seriously, at home my four-year-old thinks her mummy is now Ariel the mermaid. And my husband? Well, he’s a happy man. I haven’t yet told my sisters I’m no longer a card-carrying member of the family’s trademark look, but I’m hoping they’ll still speak to me. Just maybe not as slowly as they used to.