Recently, a longstanding, unspoken personal bond was finally broken: Justin Bieber and I no longer have the same hairstyle. With news of his engagement to Hailey Baldwin came paparazzi photos of him, hair wild and shaggy, sporting a mustache that screams “I’ve been listening to a lot of Post Malone lately and doing just fine.”
I was a prepubescent boy (i.e., dumb) during the “Baby” heyday, so naturally I harbored a completely irrational yet deep-seated aversion of the singing, dancing Canadian. Irony is a fickle mistress though, as one can scroll down to the murkiest depths of my Facebook profile and see tagged photos from the early 2010s featuring a tinier me sporting the same side-swooped bowl cut.
Like clockwork, if Bieber ever changed his hair, I would somehow end up with the same haircut — albeit a couple months behind — despite laughing at all the “memes” mocking his androgynous looks or imploring God to give us back Michael Jackson if we offered Bieber up in sacrifice. Slightly shorter bowl cut Bieber? Been there. Shaved on the sides, styled long on the top Bieber? Done that. I may have lost him for a bit in 2017 when he both shaved his head and went back to the bowl, the look closest associated with his rise to superstardom. But when I decided to dye my hair platinum blond, our souls were briefly realigned and everything was alright.
The platinum blond trend in men’s hair has increased exponentially over the past few years. This summer, Zayn Malik went blond, Pete Davidson went blond, Charlie Puth went blond; even a handful of Mexican soccer players went blond for a World Cup match. Through its adoption by many of the best-groomed men in Hollywood and the fashion industry, the trend’s en vogue status has become solidified. The fact GQ articles detailing some facet of the platinum blond dyeing process keep cropping up once a year speaks to its lasting power.
It’s easy to dismiss platinum blond as a fad, and that a decade from now we’ll be looking at it with the same disdain we now have for frosted tips. On the notion of a fad, one must first understand frosted tips were far from one; the reignited boy band craze of the late ’90s and early ’00s solidified their cultural impact, and they were a commonplace hairstyle for many young guys over damn near a decade. Fads are lucky to stay around for a year, as pogs and fidget spinners all end up relegated to the dustbin of history. Trends like frosted tips stick around, becoming a cornerstone of their era’s defining aesthetic. We’re quick to associate nostalgia with fashion as it was something in which everyone technically participated. Everyone wanted to look like Justin Timberlake.
The thing is, not everyone wants to look like Malik or Davidson or Puth. Platinum blond hair seems to have caught on only among the upper echelon of men. If I walk around campus on an average day, I will only see two or three other boys with hair like mine, out of some thousands.
Whereas dyed hair is so ubiquitous among women, it still continues to be a taboo for some men. Hair dye has been around for centuries, with the earliest and most prominent adopters being the ancient Egyptians, and blond hair has its own history, too. Roman prostitutes were required to have yellow hair to indicate their professions, with some bathing their hair in a solution made from the ashes of burnt plants to achieve that color without need of a wig. Later, in the 1700s, the color became fashionable and Italian women would sit out in the sun with their locks submerged in a corrosive solution for that luxurious blonde color. French chemist Eugene Schueller created the first synthetic hair dye for commercial purpose in 1907, a product that would later become known as L’Oréal, and it quickly became easier than ever for women to change their hair color.
The list of iconic female blondes could span hundreds — Marilyn Monroe, Farrah Fawcett, Madonna, to name a few. But one would be hard-pressed to find a single male celebrity with platinum blond hair worthy of the moniker “icon.” This is partly because platinum blond hair on men, as previously stated, is a trend very localized in the 2010s. Most celebrities who dye their hair, like Bieber, either just recently dyed it and have not put in the time necessary for icon status, or gave up maintaining the color after a year or so and switched to a new headline and eye-catching hairstyle.
There is, however, a young man on the verge of becoming synonymous with platinum blond hair. In 2017, Troye Sivan, a South African and Australian singer-songwriter with unassuming mousy brown hair fresh off the success of his debut album Blue Neighborhood, posted on Twitter and Instagram pictures of his apparent blond curls. His fans were initially skeptical, though Troye made sure they knew it was no fake, no wig. Aside from this dramatic change and a few features, Sivan did not have a world-stopping 2017.
But this year, Troye is on top of the pop world. It’s been less than a month since his chart-topping sophomore effort Bloom was released, featuring the infectious anthem “My My My!” and the Ariana Grande collaboration “Dance To This.” His explosive popularity came seemingly out of nowhere, but it’s pretty easy to understand. What makes Sivan so different from his other male contemporaries? And what makes his hair such a statement? The answer lies in his unapologetic acceptance of his queerness.
As you may have assumed, the reason dyeing your hair is still taboo among most of the male population is it goes against all norms of traditional masculinity. For lack of a better word, going to a hairdresser and getting your hair dyed platinum blond could be seen as “gay.” In fact, while doing research for this article, I stumbled across a finely-worded Yahoo Answers query asking if it “would be gay if [he] dyed [his] hair platinum blond” (he specifically requested “girls[’] opinions on the matter”). He declined requests for comment, as he is both anonymous and asked about nine years ago. While the most mean-spirited of bullies would call another guy a “sissy” or “faggot” for dyeing their hair, their vitriol isn’t misdirected; most guys who are inclined to change the color of their hair are of a queer sexuality.
And why is that? While I am by no means qualified to speak for all non-heterosexual men, my hair has come to mean a lot to me. For years, I had sported haircuts so uninteresting they would fit snugly into any given fraternity composite. Once I began to come to terms that maybe there’s more to life than girlfriends, that guys can be pretty too, I became increasingly frustrated with my outward appearance. Easy to disappear into a crowd, the straight, brown-haired white freshman I appeared to be was at odds with the interior.
In all my social anxiety, I believed people looked at me and saw the most uninteresting man in the world. I wanted so desperately for them to not write me off as boring and shy but them to see me and instantly want to befriend the silly lovable idiot I am underneath. So a seed was planted and my plan was to dye my hair something radical Thanksgiving Break. I settled on platinum blond after scrolling through an unhealthy amount of Lucky Blue Smith pictures. That plan was derailed by the family and friends occupying my house for the holiday, so it was pushed back to December. I would bleach my hair over Christmas, only tell a very select few about it and surprise everyone else in person. One stinging three-hour visit to my mom’s favorite salon later and the plan was underway.
It’s now sophomore year, and has dyeing my hair platinum blond changed my life for the better? Well, yes and no. It hasn’t transformed me into some cherub of an extrovert with countless friends under his wings, but I do think it represents a more authentic version of myself. It represents someone who finally came to terms with their worst hidden struggles and no longer hates themselves for who they are. I’d be lying if I said the random compliments I get in public bathrooms or fast-food restaurants don’t give me the slightest bit of confidence to keep going on particularly hard days. I have varied my hair color slightly, dabbling in pink and lavender, but platinum blond is my new home that always calls me back. I don’t even remember what I look like with brown hair.
Hair is one of the most important forms of personal expression, which is one of the most crucial things to the identity of any queer person, Troye Sivan and myself included. While he and I differ on the personal meaning of our platinum blond hair — Troye has always been public about his identity way before the hair change, while my acceptance of my identity coincided with the hair change (as my friends have chided me about, in a very Ralph Wiggum-type way) — both of us use hair as a means to love and accept who we are.
Troye Sivan’s hair has become very central to his brand in an amazing, celebratory kind of way. The album cover for Bloom is a black-and-white image of Sivan with his back facing the camera; the most prominent feature from that angle is his hair. The video for “My My My!” employs the same technique. As Troye dances in front of these empty, dimly-lit and monochromatic backdrops, and the platinum blond shines from every angle. It could be reductive to say all of one’s personality could be distilled into their hair, but when we choose what color we want our hair to be, it’s safe to say it’s a very sentimental personal trademark of ours.
While hair has the utmost importance to queer people of all genders, it particularly stands out among queer men because it swims in a heterosexual sea of blasé male hair. I like to think people look at me (and boy, do I get looks now, good and bad) and see the person I want to present to the world, the self becomes more and more true every day. I hate to call my old hair boring, because I’ve seen beautiful brown hair, but I’ll be damned if blonds don’t have more fun.