In praise of the silver fox
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A slash of silver is streaking across magazines, runways, red carpets and screens. In the latest Prada campaign, Vincent Cassel’s neat grey hair proves a fitting punctuation to a well cut black suit. Saint Laurent’s menswear is being modelled by four film directors – Abel Ferrara, David Cronenberg, Jim Jarmusch and Pedro Almodóvar – united by their distinctive white shocks; fellow director Luca Guadagnino features in Loewe’s SS23 pre-collection campaign, his rash of salt and pepper looking particularly marvellous. See also Adam Driver, playing Enzo Ferrari, for the new Michael Mann-directed biopic, with a grey-over. (Mann has always loved grey hair: remember Tom Cruise and his fabulous steel thatch in Collateral?)
“Men with grey hair just seem to ooze confidence,” says men’s hair stylist Jody Taylor. “Perhaps because it separates them from the boys? Certainly, a good head of natural grey implies you have lived a life, and there is a confidence in owning your grey hair, not dyeing it, keeping it natural. I’m all for it.”
Taylor says his own grey makes him feel good about ageing – it’s a visual signifier that he’s more comfortable in his skin as he matures. Jeff Bridges is his grey-hair icon: “Long, kind of a bit messy, a bit of wave, a beard: there’s something about him that just looks great all the time.”
Historically, the notion of the silver fox is a story of powder and wigs. “White and grey manes were a very popular ‘accessory’ among men in western courts in the 18th and 19th centuries,” says Marta Franceschini, a fashion historian and curator. “I say accessory, because wigs were used to obtain a fashionable look of the time.” Natural hair was also powdered with white.
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Today, the silver look is similarly coveted. Charlie Clark-Perry, director of Supa Model Management, has several silver foxes on his books, including Chris Martin, who is in his 60s and stars in the latest campaign for Rimowa. Martin modelled in the 1980s for the likes of Hermès, a fact Clark-Perry didn’t know when he scouted him on the beach in St Leonards. Relatability seems part of such models’ appeal. Plus “most brands know that the people who maybe are older will have the money to spend”, adds Clark-Perry.
Joel Frampton, 44, and also with Supa, has been a model for 25 years. His own greying began following a bout of alopecia in 2020. “I didn’t consider the grey or white initially – I was simply delighted to have some hair back,” he recalls. “But the jobs multiplied with this new short silver look.” His first job as a silver fox was for Fendi. He says that fashion is more open-minded now. “Everyone I work with in the industry speaks enthusiastically about my hair colour, and genuinely believes that I’ll work even more.”
Taylor says that because grey hair has different textures, you do need to experiment with hairstyles. “As a flip to Jeff Bridges, I like a classic sharp cut with a side parting – a bit Pierce Brosnan,” he says.
Edward James, co-founder of The Hair Consult, offers a bespoke haircare-product service. “How we turn grey is unique to each of us,” he explains, “which makes it an intentional style statement, whether it is a strong Mallen streak that actor Richard Madden has, or an even steel tone throughout like model Michael Justin.”
He warns that grey hair can become discoloured from environmental pollution or hard water, so advises using a shampoo that brightens silver, such as Redken’s Color Extend Graydiant. Styling products that enhance the greyness, such as Oribe’s Silverati Illuminating Pomade or Shu Uemura’s Nendo Definer Matte Clay, are also worth investigating. In terms of cut, he suggests keeping grey hair shapes mostly neat, though “on the back and sides I normally advise my clients not to take it too short, as the grey hair can make the scalp more visible”.
Perhaps one of the reasons for shifting perceptions around greying is connected to the fact that human beings are simply living longer. “It is no longer seen as a sign of ageing,” says James on this new era of celebratory greying. Never more are we reminded of this than when the excellent Sir David Attenborough in his latest BBC series Wild Isles is hanging out with some puffins, in a khaki anorak, his silvery hair blowing gloriously in the breeze.