Blonde no more

news & observer

Blonde no more

Going brunette is more fun with richer hues

BY SAMANTHA THOMPSON SMITH STAFF WRITER

Nicki Morse loved being a blonde. It made her feel attractive. It got her attention. But when Morse, who is the traffic anchor on NBC-17, showed up recently with her new chestnut brown hair — her natural color — everything just felt and looked right. Her hazel green eyes popped. Her honey-colored skin glowed. "I felt attractive with blonde hair," she said. "But since I've gotten to know myself better on the inside, brunette just fits me better. It makes me feel like me."
  Chocolate, it seems, is the new gold. Local stylists say more bottle blondes, and even a few natural ones, these days are asking for — or at least willing to try — darker shades, mixing cinnamon, coffee, chocolate, caramel and toffee to spice up what might otherwise be a naturally mousey brown mane.
  "Brown isn't boring anymore," said Anson Howard, owner of Howard Jacob Salon in Raleigh. "Basic brown has given way to a palette of cafe latte shades and Godiva Chocolate browns." Scott Chmelar, owner of Warren Scott Salon & Day Spa in North Raleigh, said the trend likely got its roots with the popularity a few years ago of Jennifer Lopez, who became a role model of sorts for darker haired women to embrace being a brunette among a sea of blondes.
  Then Hollywood's blondes started flirting with shades of brown: Renee Zellweger, Ashlee Simpson, Reese Witherspoon, Drew Barrymore, who's a walnut brunette on the cover of this month's "Vogue" magazine. Some stayed brown. Others just got a taste before going back to blonde. As with so many trends that start in Hollywood, the mainstream noticed.
  "It takes time for a trend to move through to the general public," Chmelar said. "But now it's a regular thing."
  Part of it has to do with the time of year. Traditionally in fall and winter, chemically enhanced blondes are encouraged to pull back on their pale hair color, going darker with lowlights because their skin doesn't get as much sun, and the contrast of fair skin with blonde hair washes them out.
  But some women are opting out of blonde completely because of the maintenance — and cost — involved.
Justin Dare, an owner of Glam Lounge in Raleigh, said in winter, some women have to come in every five or six weeks to touch up their roots because there's not as much sun to lighten the roots naturally.
  "For some people, they think that's a little too high maintenance," he said. It's expensive to make those trips to the salon, too. Some Triangle salons charge as much as $300 for a color and cut, but prices usually range between $100 and $200.
  That's one of the reasons recent N.C. State graduate Jaclyn White, 22, who's been highlighting her hair since she was in high school, asked her stylist Erin Mastrovito at Sam & Bill's in Raleigh to take her from blonde to brown. "It's easier to maintain," she said. "I want to ease out of highlighting all the time."
  Technology has helped too. Sarrah Azzawi, a Raleigh stylist, said the new line of mochas are richer, so brown isn't perceived as a mousey color. "Now people feel better about it," she said. For years, some women feared going brown because the chemicals in the brown coloring sometimes had a red tint that people didn't like. All that has changed, said Sandy Brown, an owner of Sam & Bill's. "If you're afraid of red, fear no more because they've come a long way," she said. "Manufacturers have mastered that." While the trend now may be to go brown, blonde is always going to be a popular choice, stylists say. And no doubt, the trend will cycle back to blonde soon enough.
  Sara Romweber, a Chapel Hill psychotherapist who wrote the book "Hair: Surviving the Fall," said one of the reasons so many women want to be blondes in the first place is because of how blondes are portrayed in movies, books and fairy tales: Blonde often represents good while darkhaired women are often the femme fatales or seen as evil or bad.
  And then there's the whole blondes-have-morefun business.
  White says there's no truth to it. "So far, so good," she said.
  But Morse, who is 36, says she doesn't get the same looks she used to as blonde. She's OK with that, though. "I think they were prejudging me by my hair," Morse said. "I don't think it's that way with brunettes. I think people tend to treat them more respectfully." That's partly why she likes her new color. "It just looks better now," she said. "God gives you a hair color for a reason."