Has grey hair changed the colours I wear?

— by Alyson Walsh

Photos: Claire Pepper

I have never considered myself to be a ‘pink person.’ Never. And I don’t do Day-Glo. When it comes to wearing colour, the chic not shouty (Northern Miserablist) approach always works for me. And yet, and yet…. embracing my natural hair colour and growing in the grey has had an unexpected effect. Non-boring neutrals and new shades have steathily made their way into my wardrobe. How did that happen?

When investigating what makes a winning colour combination for my last book, I spoke to knitwear designer Jo Gordon. Juxtaposing bolds and neutrals is a Jo Gordon thing, ‘I like colours that look surprising together but sit nicely, like green and pink,’ she told me,’ I am constantly playing around and putting colours together until something clicks.’ The element of surprise (and to be honest, I’m surprised I’m wearing pink), does seem to work when it comes to colour-matching. I wasn’t sure how I was going to wear this Arket pink poplin shirt but I liked the colour and I like wearing shirts; so I knew I’d figure out a way of working it into my wardrobe. And as Jo said, ‘Bright colours look best when they’re in the midst of interesting neutrals.’ Et voila. Pink and khaki, the perfect combination.


Khaki and pink: the perfect combination.

Of course, bold colour can be worn beautifully. Prue Leith does it brilliantly, mismatching her show-stopping specs with primary-hued clothes and eye-catching jewellery. Caroline Issa is the queen of technicolour trouser suits. And Lyn Slater has quite elegantly moved from monochrome to multicolour. Grey hair acts as a neutral backdrop, creating a dramatic contrast, so why not use the opportunity to experiment with a host of new colours? An artful combination such as: pink and burgundy, mustard and teal, emerald green and navy, can pep up a pasty winter complexion. One thing I have found is that when my hair is tied back and the whiter strands around my face exposed, I can’t wear white or pale silver-y shades (and when the sun catches the lighter hair, I end up with the ‘grey-lo’ effect). Yet, strangely I can wear black again. Though I do have to usher in the blusher. And introducing a silk scarf is always a good idea.

This is not a major reboot. As someone who is more Colour Averse than Colour Adventurous, I’m not going to start dressing like Ronald McDonald. A new shade has to fit in with my regular palette of blues, greens and khaki, be easy to co-ordinate and easy to wear. I have to feel comfortable in it. Colour consideration plus considerate consumption means I will be adding the occasional new colour to my old clothes. I’m happiest when I’m within my Colour Comfort Zone. I don’t want to stand out from the crowd but I do like to experiment and I want to wear colour in a way that sits with my gentlewomanly style. Whooping up a wardrobe favourite, like the pink Super Shirt, allowing space between colours or adding colour around the periphery so that it’s not taking over, is the way to go.

Colour around the periphery

‘There are no rules,’ continues Jo Gordon, ‘Spend time looking and seeing, do it slowly. Pick your colours carefully. Understand what you look good in – and that can be different colours at different times of the year. One tried and trusted technique is to hold a garment up to your face to see if it warms you up or drains the life out of you.’ Keep tinkering around, experimenting, looking around for interesting combinations, these can appear everywhere from the layers of old paint on a wall, to art galleries and other less-colour-shy women on the street. Today, a mustard yellow coat over royal blue dress with a pale blue scarf caught my eye.

Mix it up. You might find a wonderful combination.


Please note affiliate links in this post may generate a commission. The silk scarf in the first photo was borrowed from Laslett England, interview with the designer coming soon.


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