In a society where long, black hair is considered the epitome of beauty, unusual hair colours tend to draw undesired attention and snarky comments. Whether you're going down the street, sitting for a job interview or attending family events, eyes will dig into you.
"Too bold!", "Things have gotten out of hand!" - women with unnatural hair colours are used to hearing these things. For myself, unwanted comments about my pink hair have taken the place of catcalling.
As someone who currently goes about her day with half her hair in a flamingo shade of pink and whose hair has touched nearly all parts of the colour wheel since 2020, the reactions have been quite interesting.
However, there have been some positives from spending two years with a spectrum of coloured hair.
For one, I have made more friends. For some reason, the strange hair colour makes me appear more approachable, amiable and gregarious than I am. But it's also safe to say that the community of people with bold, unnaturally coloured hair behaves like a cult. One could argue that we gravitate towards one another. There is something different and ineffable about us that those with natural hairs do not quite understand but find compelling.
Unnaturally-coloured hair became iconic as part of the 1970s punk movement in the West, serving not just as a fashion statement but also as a symbol of being part of the community and culture. Punk was, by its nature, disruptive and boisterous. However, in South-East Asia, the traditional ideas that reinforce our conception of beauty are why most people shy away from unnatural colours.
Society has always been obsessed with long, black hair as a symbol of womanly beauty and grace. So much so that it has affected many aspects of women's lives. Unnatural hair colours are still frowned upon in workplaces, schools and nearly every other professional setting for several reasons, including the fact that they attract unwelcome attention, depart from conventional formal appearance and can be disruptive.
Even after considering all of that, the question of "Why should my coloured hair decide my academic success or my professionalism?" remains. Since there isn't a direct connection between the two, there is a more complex answer.
Social media might have us convinced that those who dye their hair repeatedly with unnatural colours are somehow mentally suffering or have a distorted perception of themselves. Some argue that K-pop popularised the trend. Even if this is true, unusual hair colour transcends a simple coping mechanism or a tool for cultural association.
Body modification, particularly hair colouring, tattoos and piercings are means of non-violent protest against dogmatic views in today's society and has been so for decades. There are layers of social and ideological commentary ingrained in such actions.
In the West, unnatural hair colours often represent communities and subcultures, and as a way of expressing one's individuality. It has become a powerful tool to speak loudly without having to utter a word.
The reason that unnaturally coloured hair is the target of mocking and ridicule is primarily due to rigid beliefs and adherence to conventional beauty standards.
Unnatural hair colours represent a generation that denies these oppressive standards and refuses to preserve themselves in the shadows of a historically homogenous society, despite the taboo and scorn attached.
This article is part of Stripe, bdnews24.com's special publication focusing on culture and society from a youth perspective.