Of the various ‘80s trends sweeping fashion this fall (strong shoulders, sequins and, of course, the controversial harem pants), neon is becoming increasingly ubiquitous. From Rogues Gallery to Michael Kors to Marc Jacobs, fashion brands across the board are embracing a Skittles-like palette for fall. The former has included a Hi-liter shaded hoodie—ideal for layering beneath more demure knits for fall—in its latest menswear collection. On Kors and Jacobs’ respective fall/winter runways, on the other hand, neon was channeled as the shade of choice for women's jackets, skirt suits, and fur accessories alike. But über-bright hues aren't solely surfacing by way of men's and women's wardrobes this fall, they're showing up on people’s heads.
Sourcing inspiration everywhere from the likes of George Clinton to pop star Pink, fashion is brightening up its image for fall with neon streaks and full-on fluorescent 'dos. Magazines are spearheading the trend with several September issues featuring Hi-liter-shaded hairstyles on either rag's covers or in original editorial spreads within. Kate Moss sports a larger-than-life purple and pink-streaked coif (that's simultaneously punk and straight out of Marie Antoinette's epoch) on the cover of the latest issue of Another Magazine. Meanwhile inside V's new issue, supermodel Linda Evangelista mimics the aforementioned forefather of funk's iconic, dreadlocked neon hair in a chameleon-inspired editorial spread.
Both 10 and W likewise play with Rainbow Brite locks as the perfect accessory for a fall fashion spread in their respective September issues. In the former, model Anna de Rijk sports an exceedingly long, exceptionally bright blond orange colored ponytail. As for W: Juergen Teller outfits a model in his rural fall fashion story with a similarly shaded long wig. And, it's not the only fall fashion photograph that Teller has snapped featuring a model with an unusually tinted coif. For Marc by Marc Jacobs' fall 2009 ads, as seen in the latest issue of Interview, Teller captures a black cocktail dress-clad brunette with blue-streaked hair.
While fall ad campaigns and editorial spreads are adding fuel to the trend, the hairstyle's recent resurgence dates back to February's fashion shows. Nowhere was the message as clear as on Comme des Garçons' catwalk. For fall 2009, Rei Kawakubo sent a parade of models down the runway in identical cotton candy-esque neon hairstyles. The pink and purple hair helped to offset Kawakubo's relatively reserved (at least in terms of color) collection. The military-inspired and highly conceptual collection's only flamboyant aspect proved the colorful hairstyles, which were wrapped in sheer white fabric, simultaneously giving the impression of medicinal gauze and a present waiting to be unwrapped. Also seen post Fashion Week: British scenester and sometimes model Peaches Geldof sporting wigs all summer and donning a particularly bright red faux bob for Giles' Resort Look Book.
But, like many sartorial trends, while neon 'dos may work wonders on a runway, fashion's current Hi-liter hair tendencies most likely won't translate well to the masses. "It's not for your everyday woman," says Adrian Wallace, a colorist at NYC's renowned Rita Hazan salon (an institution synonymous with tending to the coloring of celebrity tresses, including those of Jessica Simpson and Renée Zellwegger). "This is more for eye candy; this is more for the runways and the fashion shows and the fashion shoots. Moms are not going to be asking for this. It's not going to fit into their lifestyles." Needless to say, hair streaked with shockingly bright hues doesn't seem very befitting of either stay-at-home moms or America's corporate workforce.
However, with Lady Gaga having recently played with pink and purple locks, and Lily Allen having performed in a bright purple wig this summer (not to mention Scarlett Johansson rendering the look nearly iconic with a particular karaoke scene in Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation), it's little surprise neon locks have become popular among a significantly younger population. "I do find that young kids are asking for it a little bit more than they have in the past 10 years," Wallace says.
While the colorist finds the style a fun, refreshingly flamboyant facet of fashion today, he's quick to criticize when it comes to the style's greater historical context. "I'm glad these neon colors are back, because I feel like it adds another dimension to fashion. Fashion has been on neutral for a while," Wallace says. And saturated hair is a sign of renewed adventurousness and whimsy. Although, like any recycled trend, in its second and even third incarnation the neon-hair trend feels a bit watered down. Wallace recalls, "the first time around it's always great. The second time around it's been there, done that."
But, should an average woman off NYC streets feel propelled to dabble in the newfound fall hair trend, there is a way to play it safe while still venturing into Hi-liter territory. "If a client is not sure about the streaking of blues, pinks, greens and all of that, what I would suggest is that they do it at the nape of the neck. That way, they can see it when they want to, but they can also hide it," Wallace says, recommending women do that "before doing it on top or on the bangs where you can't hide it." Also, keep in mind that, like the Balmain super-size shoulder and the sequined mini dresses, all trends fade. This one too is likely a passing phase. Besides, while a mile-high shoulder may do wonders for your silhouette, day in and day out it's too drastic a look not to eventually get old.
Alisa Gould-Simon is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer. She also covers fashion and culture for BlackBook, New York magazine, and PAPER among other publications.