Are You Nicer to Blondes?

Jo Piazza
Managing Editor
July 10, 2014

Everyone, absolutely everyone, has been so helpful to me in the past several weeks—and noticeably nicer. I walk down the street and people offer an unsolicited hello. Subway seats are mine; I get to walk ahead of everyone through the turnstile.I’m not pregnant. I’m blonde.

After thirty some years as a brunette, I wanted a change. Turns out my colorist, the incredible Allison Gandolfo at the John Barrett salon, is kind of psychic. She knew I needed to lighten up after a recent breakup, even before I did. She texted me one day about a month ago: Blonde? Now? Maybe, I replied.Going blonde when you’re a ruddy chestnut brown is no easy feat. ”You’re going to have so much fun,” Allison said. “Men are going to be all over you.”I don’t know about the fun—and I actually haven’t yet been asked on any dates—but the world is a better place as a blonde. Here’s why:

The cashier at Trader Joe’s offers to carry my bags to the car.

Cabbies smile at me and strike up pleasant conversation.

Airline check-in staff give me free passes to the business lounge.

Security in my office building no longer scowls when I forget my ID.

I can talk my way out of speeding tickets.

Bouncers wave cover charges.

Bartenders offer me free drinks.

Waiters give me extra fries and dessert.

When I ran out of value on my Metro Card, the person behind me swiped for me. 

I need to stress that none of this felt like a creepy come-on, though it does make me paranoid. People are just more pleasant, so was I less approachable as a brunette? Plenty of people have written about this great hair hypocrisy before. There is even a modicum of scholarly research on the subject. Lisa Slattery Walker, a Sociology professor at UNC in Charlotte has been studying the effect that hair color has on how people interact with you. “This is not my opinion. It is based on research,” Dr. Walker said when I asked why she thought people were being nice to me. “Hair color plays a role in the way people are treated. Women who are blonde tend to get more help from others.”

But why? Dr. Walker says that at least part of it has to do with blonde stereotypes reinforced through media and culture.

“In cartoons and children’s programming, we see the way women are portrayed based on their hair. Those associations continue through childhood and into adulthood,” she says.

I grew up reading Archie comics and because I was brunette, I always associated myself with Veronica, the headstrong, sassy, manipulative, and raven-haired beauty. She was the foil to blonde, sweet and innocent girl next-door Betty. Betty was approachable. Veronica was scary. The paradigm was so simple, Blonde = Nice and Brunette = B*tch.

I think the shift in people’s reactions to me boils down to something else too—confidence.

This new blonde do is making me feel more confident and the truth is that confidence is probably the best accessory you can put on and the least easiest makeup to apply.

More people approach me as a blonde, because I want to be approached. For now, blonde is making me feel great about myself—and while the free metro rides, drinks, and fries are great, that’s what really matters.