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Why Grey (Hair) Is The New Black

Step away from the hair dye and follow these seven silver foxes

  • Mr José Mourinho, Manchester United manager, at the Bet365 Stadium, Stoke on Trent, 9 September 2017. Photograph by Mr Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

As Mr Andy Warhol noted in his 1975 book The Philosophy Of Andy Warhol (From A To B And Back Again): “When you’ve got grey hair, every move you make seems ‘young’ and ‘spry’”. Mr Warhol, a founding father of the pop art movement, dyed his hair grey in his early twenties and it became his signature look.

It is an interesting approach, but not one to which most people would subscribe. Until recently, going grey was generally seen as a bad thing: an inevitable sign of ageing; a metaphor for being middle-aged and past one’s prime. But lately, this has begun to change.

Influential millennials like Messrs Zayn Malik and Lucky Blue Smith have popularised a growing trend among young people – both male and female – to dye their hair grey. (In 2015, Amazon reported an 80 per cent spike in sales of grey hair dye.) More lasting is the change at the more mature end of the grey scale. Silver foxes like Messrs George Clooney and Jeff Goldblum have long made the case that it is better to embrace grey hair than to attempt to cover it up. Whether it starts in your stubble or at your temples, some salt and pepper instantly confers a certain amount of sophistication, gravitas and character. Moreover, it indicates a man with an attractive amount of confidence and honesty rather than an unattractive amount of vanity.

Here we shine a light on seven shades of grey as highlighted by men who seem to get better with age.

Mr Viggo Mortensen, 59

  • Mr Viggo Mortensen at the 89th Academy Awards, Hollywood, 26 February 2017. Photograph by Mr Anthony Behar/Press Association Photos

Most Hollywood actors are vain. Understandably so – their face and physique are their job. Mr Mortensen, who found his fame later in life – notably with Eastern Promises, for which he was Oscar-nominated – is anti-vanity. He’s not particularly interested in posing for photo shoots, but when he does, it’s on one condition: no retouching. Please do not airbrush out the jagged scar above his upper lip or the cragginess of his features because, as he has said, it’s “ultimately self-defeating to hide the truth about our bodies”. He’s a multilingual polymath: a poet, photographer and painter who speaks eight languages; a Danish immigrant who grew up in Buenos Aires and now lives part of the year in Madrid. But he’s more of a man’s man than a Renaissance man who, as one magazine writer put it, dresses “as if he’s going to the hardware store to buy a nail gun”. He drives a battered, vintage pick-up truck (that he fixes himself) around Idaho. There are apocryphal stories that he walked barefoot around New Zealand for the three years he lived there while making the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. He looks as if he is roughly hewn from well-weathered granite and sums up his attitude thus: “I’m not that involved in personal grooming, but I try not to be offensive to people.” We can safely assume the no-retouching rule extends to his silver hair.

Mr Barack Obama, 56

  • Mr Barack Obama in Berlin, 25 May 2017. Photograph by Ms Michele Tantussi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Within six weeks of taking up residence in the White House, the press began to notice that US President Barack Obama’s hair was rapidly turning grey. The transformation was so immediate, there were some who suggested the then-47-year-old was deliberately dyeing it grey in order to command greater respect as a statesman. Others wondered if the stresses of leading the free world had taken quick-silver effect. No, he was just going grey and he decided the best course of action was to keep it short and not attempt any kind of overly elaborate embarrassing Presidential cover-up that would simply draw more attention than necessary to the issue. (Can you imagine a President who would do such a thing?) Towards the end of his second term in office, President Obama remarked upon the grey area with an untypically barbed insinuation while speaking to some students in Kuala Lumpur. “When I came into office, I had no grey hair and now I have a lot,” he said. “I don’t dye my hair and a lot of my fellow leaders do. I won’t say who. But their barbers know, their hairdressers.” On another occasion he remarked of his commitment to the job: “Every grey hair is worth it.” Wistful sigh.

Mr José Mourinho, 54

  • Mr José Mourinho celebrates as Manchester United beat Leicester City in Manchester, 26 August 2017. Photograph by Mr Andrew Yates/Action Images

When the self-anointed “Special One” first announced himself in English football, there was something of Mr Muhammad Ali’s rat-a-tat rhetoric and braggadocio about him that made people listen. But there was also an undeniably handsome silver foxiness that made people look – even people who didn’t like football. He was young in management terms, but his cocksure swagger and his salt-and-pepper thatch lent him the necessary gravitas to be taken seriously. He was one of the first of the super-star coaches, suavely prowling the touchline in dark tailoring, elegant overcoats and neatly knotted scarves when most of his contemporaries were in tracksuits. Although Mr José Mourinho, now manager of Manchester United, is one of sport’s most colourful characters, he’s really all about silver. The older he gets the more of it he accumulates both in his hair and in his trophy cabinet. And love him or loathe him, you have to say it suits him.

Mr Joaquin Phoenix, 43

  • Mr Joaquin Phoenix, Los Angeles, 10 December 2014. Photograph by Mr Rob Latour/REX Shutterstock

True, Mr Joaquin Phoenix has never been much of a role model when it comes to his general behaviour and public appearance. In fact, quite the opposite: with his unruly hair, scruffy beard and slept-in vibe, the star of Walk The Line has often crossed it. Most notably during that notorious appearance on the Late Show With David Letterman, during which he appeared monosyllabic and unkempt behind dark glasses, leading a visibly irritated Mr Letterman to bring an end to the farce with the line “I’m sorry you couldn’t be here tonight”. The quip inspired the title of Mr Phoenix’s subsequent mockumentary I’m Still Here, for which he claimed to be in character while on Letterman. Mr Phoenix is still here, and he’s older now, perhaps a little wiser, and there is a shabby chicness to his salt-and-peppered cheeks. Although he is a recovering alcoholic and now a vegan, there are times when the actor looks as if he’s arrived straight from a big night out. Then a week later, he looks every inch the A-list star again, his grey whiskers lending him a rugged charm. If little else, he is proof of the transformative effect of a good haircut, a beard trim and a proper night’s sleep – Mr Phoenix rising from the ash-tray.

Mr Chris Pine, 37

  • Mr Chris Pine at the AOL Studios, New York, 23 May 2017. Photograph by Mr Ray Tamarra/Getty Images

Messrs Chris Pine, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Chris Pratt. We’ve reached Critical Chris-Mass. There are so many handsome Hollywood action hero types named Chris – white, similar age, lantern-jawed – that people genuinely tend to get them confused. Vanity Fair even made up a game about this, and when Mr Pine hosted Saturday Night Live earlier this year, he self-deprecatingly addressed the issue in song form. So it is hardly surprising that, now in his later thirties, he has recently embraced the opportunity to distinguish himself from this frat-pack with some distinguished salt and pepper. “I’m enjoying the ageing process and the grey hair and the wrinkles,” he told a celebrity magazine last year. “I like having the definition a beard gives. I have some white hairs coming in, so that gives it different colours, I guess… I don’t think there’s anything less attractive than a man over-dyeing things on his face, so I’m going to try, for as long as I can, to age as my male forefathers before me. My father started getting greys when he was in his thirties, as did my grandfather before him, so I don’t want to look perpetually young. To each his own, but it’s just not for me. Men trying to look young doesn’t really go for me. I mean, I’m Botoxing on the daily, but…” He’s quite amusing, that Mr Pra.. Sorry! We mean Mr Pine. Easy mistake.

Mr Vincent Cassel, 50

  • Mr Vincent Cassel at the Cannes Film Festival, 19 May 2016. Photograph by Ms Kristina Nikishina/Epsilon/Getty Images

“Every time I make a movie my hair gets a little whiter,” Mr Cassel once quipped. Which might explain why he doesn’t make more of them. He has estimated he turns down 95 per cent of the work he is offered. Mr Cassel is arguably France’s coolest actor, his generation’s answer to Mr Alain Delon, and he is best known for his roles in French cult classics La Haine and the Mesrine films, as well as Black Swan. For a long time, he was one half of Europe’s most glamorous celebrity couple – he and Ms Monica Bellucci divorced in 2013 after 14 years of marriage. He is the Pictionary definition of “louche” and just seems to get cooler and more full of character as he gets older. There are fan sites devoted to his oft-changing hairstyle, but we are digging the current look: luxuriant grey whiskers and slicked-back locks.

Mr Mark Ruffalo, 49

  • Mr Mark Ruffalo at the Tribeca Film Festival, New York, 18 April 2016. Photograph by Mr Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images

While Mr Cassel has the coiled spring, ice-cold steely look of menace about him, Mr Mark Ruffalo has a ruffled kindly face. His manner and his voice are both calming and charming, masculine without being macho, a little rumpled but boyish. Wherever action heroes come from, Mr Ruffalo is from the opposite end of the spectrum. So, has their ever been a less likely man to play The Incredible Hulk? Grey hair suggests someone who has lived life, seen a few things – and Mr Ruffalo has. He quit acting for a time in the aftermath of his brother’s mysterious (and still unsolved) murder, moved his family to Upstate New York and became a political activist. “Everyone thought I was crazy, perhaps I was a little crazy,” he has said. Since returning to acting, he has enjoyed the best roles of his career, flick-flacking between powerful indie films and megabucks blockbusters. But with that tousled hair and beard flecked with grey, doesn’t he just look like the kind of guy-next-door you want to bro-hug and have a beer with?

Essentials for silver foxes

  • Oribe Silverati Shampoo, 250ml

  • Marie-Stella-Maris No.51 Nourishing and Revitalizing Conditioner, 300ml

  • Lab Series Age Rescue+ Densifying Shampoo, 200ml

  • SACHAJUAN Silver Conditioner, 250ml

  • Renessence Follicle Forever Shampoo, 220ml

  • Christophe Robin Moisturizing Hair Cream, 100ml

The men featured in this story are not associated with and do not endorse MR PORTER or the products shown