In the late-2000s, something happened with full-on beards. Bon Iver released an album and, shortly after, everyone lost their boyfriends and sons to craft booze fetishism, raw denim and barber shops with old school tattoo-style branding. And we – people who fancy men – got a little twinge. 'Oooh,' we thought, 'beards.'
Arriving off the back of indie's five-matchsticks-in-a-pea-coat look, beards signalled a great return to "real man aesthetics", but with a sensitivity fitting the new Millennial Man. This was a woodcutter who would take you roughly in the heather and talk about his relationship with your mum afterwards. Suddenly we were forced to look at men with fresh eyes. Those we had not fancied previously became alluring; those who were already hot became hotter. It was new, exciting.
It was also a trick.
After a few months it became apparent that, nine times out of ten, the beard was just a substitute for a personality, like berets or being really into weed. As the curtain dropped, so too did the mass sexual appeal of the beard.
We are sad to report that the same phenomenon is taking place now, but with bleached hair.
What Is It
Let’s be clear: we're not talking about, for example, Troye Sivan's recent transformation into Full Botticellian cherub. We're not talking about anybody who successfully dyes their hair and also looks after it, as the admirable few are wont to do. We're talking about men who have never heard of toner box-bleaching their hair to appear somewhere between Boris Johnson and Billie Joe Armstrong circa 1995. On the Dulux chart it places somewhere between "Citron Sunrise" and "That Alarmingly Bright Shade Of Yellow Mum Painted The Kitchen While Menopausal".
Where Did It Come From
It’s difficult to get to the patchy roots of the trend’s beginnings, but generally it seems to be a convolution of several things.
i) Ryan Gosling doing some skids on a motorbike and walking around, swole, in a ripped Metallica T-shirt in The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) :-)
ii) Yet another recurring symptom of 90s nostalgia. Remember how everyone from Justin Timberlake to Brad Pitt had peroxide hair with the roots coming through, and it made sense at the time because the general dress code was "CBA + something denim"? It's a throwback to that from the neck up, adopted by men wearing hundreds of pounds worth of streetwear. Which is where the true insult comes in, really: if you have £500 to drop on a full resale Palace tracksuit, you can have your hair done in a salon by a professional. It is yet another example of (mostly) straight lads shooting for something objectively good and absolutely fucking it by doing the bare minimum. See also: men who claim to be into skincare because they own precisely one (one.) tube of Bulldog moisturiser.
iii) Bleach London.
Who's Doing It
This trend has enjoyed much recent longevity within the megalomaniac community – think, Donald Trump, Milo Yiannopoulos and Julian Assange – which suggests a definite undercurrent of status symbolism involved. It’s a simple way of sticking out, good or bad reasons be fucked.
Recent perpetrators include: Zayn Malik in what was a truly astonishing take on HypeBeast-era Colonel Sanders, Adam Levine, Professor Green, every single Soundcloud rapper, uncelebrated VICE journalist Emma Garland and loads of other people in our office (sorry, lads).
Footballers began, in greater numbers, to join the Goslings, Biebers and Kanyes of the world around 2015-2016, thus elevating bleach from "bold or subversive fashion statement" to "go-to option for anyone who doesn’t know what to do with their hair".
This is the only characteristic most embracers of the trend have in common. Like, if the Vans Old Skools meme panned up, it would reveal three boys with bleached hair and also probably some type of nose piercing. Just as the full beard before it went mainstream, and in doing so shed all indicators to do with interests or personality, bleached hair now says very little about someone besides: would describe themselves as "fashionable", possibly going grey.
"My wife loves it!" – Adam Levine, 2018
Approx Date Until We're All Over It
This trend – as with all trends – can survive only through the will of the thirsty. Ultimately, it's only a thing because enough of us have validated it, so it stands to reason that only we can change the tide. Thirst giveth, and thirst taketh away.
We suspect that summer, 2018 will be a turning point. Every park or village green will be, like a French impressionist painting, dotted with varying shades of blonde crops. By the end of the year every publishing house in London will be commissioning hardback editions called stuff like Bleach Boys, Bleach of London and London Bleach Style, full of the same lads standing against coloured roller shutters in Brick Lane in black or white T-shirts, with little fact files. In years to come, fashion archives will declare that post-2000 fashion became a kaleidoscope, a free for all, a liberal pick ‘n’ mix from any decade, but for one uniform hair colour.
So convinced of this are we that we contacted WGSN, the trend forecasting and analysis site, to test the theory. "Short, shaved, curtains, even dreads; any style goes, and the adoption of the colour has segued from a casual dip-dye to a full-head of bleach within a year, hinting that 2018 is set to be the year this look goes mainstream," replied Emma Grace Bailey, the WGSN Beauty Editor. Plot twist: they also think "blonde is just the beginning" and that primary colours are coming. So, there's that to look forward to.
Did beards ever die, though? No, they did not. They did, however, return to being the sole interest of those who were predisposed to enjoying them in the first place. This will inevitably be the fate of bleached hair. Once the novelty wears off, bleached hair will revert once again to the confines of its core audience: horny idiots magnetically drawn to anything that connotes "anger problems" or "issues with mum" due to their own unexamined emotional problems. Us, basically.
Also, remember this: it's all done for the second Liam Payne gets involved.