Ombré hair. You know what we’re talking about: the base hair color combined with lighter, sometimes pink, shades at the ends. Ombré hair highlights are one of those popular hair trends that people love to hate and hate to love: the gradient hair is either “lazy” or “cool”. We thought it’d be fun to revisit ombré hair roots — a peek at where ombré hair first started (yes, before Rumi Neely) — and if you’re deciding on whether or not you want to try ombré hair yourself, we give some hair tips.
What is Ombré Hair?
Ombré is French for shaded. Ombré hair highlights are essentially the darker shades at the scalp “melting in” with the lightest shade at the ends of your hair, or vice versa. It is often confused with the “dip dyed” hair trend, which is two-toned (hair that literally looks like it was dipped in dye) and isn’t as subtle as ombré.
The Roots of Ombré
French chemist Eugene Schueller was the first to create commercial chemical hair dye in 1907, which he called “Oréale”. This hair dye was later known as “L’Oreal” and is now one of the biggest beauty companies in the hair dye industry. Hair coloring, mostly for touching up gray hairs, was seen as a reflection of social status, and in the 1930s and 50s it had negative connotations as something only “loose” women did.
While it’s not clear when ombré hair coloring officially began, we can imagine that people experimented a lot with hair coloring when hair dye became accessible to the masses and socially acceptable in the 1960s and early 70s. The advertising industry changed the way society viewed hair dying: the Clairol slogan “Does she… or doesn’t she? Only her hairdresser knows for sure.” and L’Oreal slogan, “Because I’m worth it” empowered women to reinvent themselves. And, fun fact from The Hair Book: in 1968, Americans no longer had to include their hair color in their passports because people were changing their hair color so often.
Where Did Ombré Hair Begin?
Debbie Harry and Terri Nunn, lead singer for pop band Berlin, were the first to popularize two-toned hair color in the 1980s. For those of you who may not be familiar with Nunn, her band did “Take My Breath Away”, the song from Top Gun. In an interview with Portland Mercury, Nunn tells the interviewer that originally she wanted her hair to be voluminous and wavy like Stevie Nicks and Farrah Fawcett, but it always fell flat. The band’s keyboardist, who also did hair, suggested an “unusual hair color” which led to her iconic half platinum blonde, half black hair. This dip dyed hair style was copied by many famous blondes later on, which include the likes of Drew Barrymore in the movie Whip It and Lady GaGa.
Who Popularized Ombré?
Ombré was first spotted during fashion week back in 2009. Proenza Schouler made ombré’s big debut in their Spring/Summer 2010 runway show, showing models rocking messy, grayish-white hair that faded into lavender and green. While at Paris fashion week, Katie Shillingford, stylist and editor at Dazed and Confused, had ombré platinum blonde hair that faded into blue and black. Ombré hair was also commonly known as Fashion Toast blogger Rumi Neely’s signature hairstyle. The ombré hair trend boomed in 2010. Pretty much every celebrity had tried it — Kate Bosworth, Keira Knightley, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lauren Conrad, Rachel Bilson, Jessica Biel and Alexa Chung to name a few. Ombré became so popular that the smooth gradients were splattered all over clothes, nails, and furniture.
Hot or Not?
No, it’s not a hot trend anymore. But, as with all things related to style, whether or not it’s a trend shouldn’t matter. If it’s something that you’re interested in, just try it and find out!
Ombré Hair Tips
If you’re thinking about doing this ‘do, here are some things to consider:
→ Experiment with colors. When you dye your hair ombré, you can choose a crazy color to use at the ends. Kool-aid has been known to be used as a temporary dye. If it turns out that you don’t like the color, you can just wash it out or cut it off!
→ For Asian hair, it will take time to bleach. There will likely be a long process to get that “ash blonde” color to sink in. It’s also pretty damaging, so make sure you think about whether your hair is right for bleaching. Chictopia member Harry Go recommends L’Oreal Quick Blue with 40% developer for Asian hair.
→ Beauty brands don’t normally carry those pretty pastel colors that you see on the hair of models in fashion editorials. Pastel hair chameoleon Harry says, “the trick is to buy some cheap conditioner, and then put a tiny bit of color (for example, the pink from Manic Panic or Special Effects) and then dilute it with conditioner.” He recommends a very small amount of color. “A comparison would be 1:10. 1 part color, 10 part conditioner.”
→ Don’t let your ends get straggly because of hair dye (unless that’s the look you’re going for). Ombré hair is already super low-maintenance, but if you can’t keep your ends from splitting, then it really looks like you just got lazy. You can put extra conditioner at the ends of your hair or use Moroccan Oil.
For More On Ombré Hair, Check Out…
→ Amy Lee of Shop Vagabond Youth’s video on how she got ombré hair.
→ Do your own ombré hair at home with this DIY by Beauty Editor.
→ Test out colors with the temporary kool-aid version.
Abbey Lee Kershaw in Vogue
Proenza Schouler SS2010
Katie Shillingford at Paris Fashion Week on JakandJil