Ryan Chartrand

It’s been speculated the reason women dye their hair blonde has something to do with generic clich‚s like, “blondes have more fun” or “men find blondes more attractive.” Psh. As if.

Although aesthetics obviously have something to do with a woman’s choice to dye her hair, one of the main reasons women change their physical appearance is to signify a change in their personal lives. When many women experience change, they change their hair.

Body image is commonly defined as a person’s perception of his or her own physical appearance. When a person’s body changes, so can the image of his or her self.

People take on physical transformations to emphasize changes in their lives, whether through exercising more or less, coloring or cutting hair, piercing a body part, or getting ink done.

Immediately after my roommate attended the last class of her college career this spring, she walked into a tattoo parlor and walked out with a 3-inch purple lotus flower on the side of her ribcage. She had planned the design to make a personal statement about who she is, and chose her timing to coincide with graduation, one of the defining moments in her life.

Hair color is an easy and much less permanent alternative women use to signify change.

According to a 2003 study by hair care industry consultant Kline & Co., 48 percent of people aged 16 to 20 use hair dye. This is the industry’s largest market, with 40- to 49-year-old users coming in second at 45 percent.

The two age groups most likely to color their hair are the two age groups that stereotypically experience the most change. From ages 16 to 20, girls are becoming women. They’re going to college, developing an idea of what they want in life, and discovering what’s important to them. On the other hand, 40 is the age when women stereotypically go “over the hill.” Many women ages 40 to 49 struggle with their body’s transformation, and may look to hair dye as either a means to experiment with other change or to cover gray hairs and stay “young.”

For women, hair styles play a decisive role in defining personal identity. This has also been true for me.

When I moved to London for a quarter to study, I grew up a lot. Even though I had been living away from home for almost two years, I had always had the security of living in a small college town where everything I needed was relatively close.

Living in London forced me to learn the huge, foreign city on my own. I tried new things, planned trips to other parts of the world, and made friends with fellow travelers from different countries. London gave me a thirst for life.

It also inspired me to dye my hair a merlot-colored red. As soon as I dyed my hair, American tourists began to regularly approach me for directions. The transformation from parent-influenced underclassman to independent world-traveler was complete.

That fall I changed my major, and chopped my long hair into a short bob that fell just below my chin. A new relationship led to a purpler, less natural shade of red. Permanently moving out of my parents’ house led to dark brown, and friendship problems drew me to black. When I broke up with my boyfriend three months ago, my black hair accrued light brown streaks.

Did I purposefully plan to pick a new shade of hair color based on significant moments in my life? No. In fact, I didn’t see the connection until my recent decision to once again change my hair color.

Now I’m going blonde. It’s not because “blondes have more fun,” or because my grandma thinks God wants my hair to be its natural color (I’m naturally a darker blond, and she’s a little crazy). It’s because I need a change. My hair color is something I can physically alter to convey a difference in choices and attitude, or emotional growth.

When you see me tomorrow I’ll be a new woman with new priorities, and all the problems of my days dyed black will be gone.

Well, not really. But it’ll be easier to take a step forward with my newly re-defined goals when I look and feel just a little different.

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