The hairdressers can stay shut – lockdown has taught me to love my long grey locks

Jan Etherington
Jan with her dog Jagger - Sarah Lucy Brown
Jan with her dog Jagger - Sarah Lucy Brown

I had an email from my hairdresser yesterday. They are ‘delighted to get back to work’ and will be ‘calling clients personally to get you booked in as soon as possible.’

Did I sob with relief? Click my heels in the air with joy? Reply with gushing gratitude?

I did not. I shrugged, tossed back my shaggy mane and deleted the message.

Honestly, I doubt I’ll bother getting my hair cut again til... Oh, I don’t know when. Because I’m amazed to discover that, after all these months, I’m loving my lanky lockdown locks. 

Most of my friends are peering through tangled tresses and frantically texting their stylists, desperate to be shorn the minute the doors open.

And if you’d asked me back in March if I’d still be happily hirsute in July, I’d have shaken my still neatly bobbed head in panic. Indeed, to mis-quote Gloria Gaynor ‘At first I was afraid I was petrified. Kept thinking I could never contemplate a pink hairslide.’

Yes, I’ve had to tame it a bit but I never resorted to an Alice band. Everyone I know bought hairdressers’ scissors online and the results seem to fall into two categories – the Rykers’ Island inmates look (too bold with the clippers?) or the cast of Stranger Things (a fringe should not reveal your eyebrows). On the plus side, when encountering Bad Haircut victims, we automatically cross to the other side of the road to avoid them, thus practising social distancing. 

I cut my husband’s hair with the dog’s grooming scissors. He said it was the best cut he’d ever had but I wouldn’t let him cut mine. 

When I started getting itchy eyes, I made the mistake of trimming my own fringe in the mirror, where everything looks backwards. I took too much off, in a zig zag (see Stranger Things above). But that was during the ‘transition’ stage, which lasted through April and May, when my English Setter dog, Jagger and I were often mistaken for close relatives. 

I was lucky that I always had ‘half-head colour’ so I don’t have a grey streak hairline and as my hair is rinsed by a daily sea swim, I like to think it’s ‘beach hair’ – wild and streaky. Think Pamela Anderson in her prime. 

It’s all new to me because I’ve never really had long hair. I missed out on the Cathy McGowan 60s swingy style because I was a sensible mother of two and long hair gets grabbed by Marmitey, tiny hands. So for most of my life, I favoured a short, layered look. 

Jan Etherington, pictured here in 2019, says she kept her hair cropped before lockdown set it free
Jan Etherington, pictured here in 2019, says she kept her hair cropped before lockdown set it free

But strangely, whenever I go to get my hair cut – and you get into a routine, don’t you? – I look in the mirror as the stylist combs it through and asks me ‘How much do you want cut off?’ And it always looks really good, at that moment and I think ‘Nothing!’ but of course, I don’t say that. I say ‘Couple of inches all over’ and although I smile and tell her, ’It’s lovely’, as I leave, I often think I look like a tetchy social worker for at least a week.

Long hair is for the young, is the subliminal message. I have granddaughters with hair down to their waists who look gorgeous. But is that a good look for a Senior Railcard Holder? 

Older women with flowing locks are frequently perceived as desperately seeking lost youth, or just not being ‘smart’. 

Yet we have fabulously glamorous role models in Susan Sarandon, Goldie Hawn and Joanna Lumley.

Joanna Lumley and her signature long locks - The Telegraph
Joanna Lumley and her signature long locks - The Telegraph

Joanna had a brief flirtation with a bob when she played Purdey in the New Avengers. She chose the character's distinctive short hairstyle herself - asking the hairdresser to cut it to look like a "prep school boy." And the Purdey haircut became as popular as Audrey Hepburn’s gamine crop. But let’s face it, Joanna looks good in anything and we know her best for her long, blond ‘bed hair’.

Yet nothing is more striking and inspiring than an older woman whose hair is not just long but confidently, naturally grey. My artist friend, Prue has defiantly long, burnished grey hair, which perfectly compliments her ageless, bohemian style 

I’ve a way to go before I can call my mop a ‘style’. It’s not yet in the Claudia ‘Curtains’ Winkleman league but the nice thing is I’ve actually been complimented on my ‘softer’ look. 

So I’m not going to get the chop – yet. I’m holding my nerve, letting it all hang down. I might even change my name to Rapunzel. 

I want to picture myself being serenaded by Leonard Cohen – ‘Your hair upon the pillow like a sleepy golden storm’ – because  having long hair is growing on me.

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