Why Streak?
December 19, 2010, 8:57 pm
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On the general theory that (after a certain age) female beauty and styling efforts are aimed at creating the illusion of youth, ‘streaks’ or ‘highlights’ or ‘frosting’ in hair present a puzzle. I understand simply coloring (fully) one’s hair, either a youthful color (i.e. blonde) or just to cover up gray hair. Similarly, makeup and beauty creams can be understood as, in part, an effort to hide wrinkles and other signs of aging. And both of those can actually work.

But what of these streaks/highlights (not sure what to call them – let’s just use ‘streaks’) that women have started introducing in the past 10-15 years? What do they think they’re doing? No such thing is found in nature, hence any woman with streaks is making it fully apparent that her hair’s coloring is the result of chemicals. You can’t get tricked by streaks into thinking that’s naturally youthful hair, since streaks are not natural. So it’s not possible, not even in principle, for streaks to create an illusion of youth, except perhaps at a distance/first glance (before the phoniness of the coloring becomes non-ignorable). Instead, they are a reminder of age.

Let’s say I’m trying to estimate a woman’s age, and by my estimates, from her looks, I figure she’s between X on the low end and Y on the high end. The age-range she can pull off is [X,Y]. If her coiffing/etc. are particularly good, maybe she can trick me into thinking her age is closer to X. If she is of average styling, I’ll probably guess somewhere in the middle, (X+Y)/2. But, if my a priori estimate would be that she’s between X and Y, and I see streaks in her hair, I’m instinctively going to increase my estimate and guess that she’s closer to Y years old. Because no one who was on the young end of her [X,Y] apparent age-range would have put streaks in her hair in the first place.

So basically, streaks/highlights in hair serve almost the opposite function of most other beauty aids: they make an aging woman seem objectively older than she otherwise might. They pin a woman’s age to the high end of her pull-off’able age-range. At least to me. Now obviously, I’m not the target of most such efforts, so women can say ‘we don’t care what you think’. Ok fine. Just saying.

4 Comments so far
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Woman with blondish, and light-brown hair, can have streaks in their hair.

Streaking simulates the effect a lot of sun has on the hair.

Of course, it is true, the kind of high-contrast streaking we see has no correlary in nature. Unless, perhaps, the zebra.

Comment by Pastorius

Yes, perhaps the idea of streaks is that it mimics the effect of sun in a light-haired girl’s hair. The only problem is, it does so in the most obvious, fakest way imaginable. There’s absolutely no possibility of being ‘fooled’, thus, what do women think they’re accomplishing?

Just not a fan.

Comment by Sonic Charmer

Patently fake hair colors and streaks give a girl an empowerment buzz – “I don’t care what they say!” – whether it looks good or not, plus heightened proof of value if she happens to pull it off.

Heightened proof of value is a benefit of ugly styles. When a girl shows up in a dress that looks like an inverted bin liner, she’s saying, “See – I still look fabulous even though I’m wearing this.” I think this is a big element of the hip hop fashion of wearing your trousers halfway down your bum, too, which has inexplicably held on for two decades.

Empowerment was the explanation I got from a gay fashion editor a few years ago when I asked what was up with the midriff-revealing tops and hip hugger jeans that were all over the place at the time. Almost no women actually looked good in them.

Still seems sick and narcissistic to me. Of course there will always be a boho fringe that loves to épater le bourgeois, but when ordinary girls are going there it’s a sign of a culture in trouble. If you don’t like it, count yourself healthy.

Comment by robert61

You’re overthinking things. Women placed streaks in their hair to look “different”-IOW, to stand out in the eyes of their Alpha du jour. The fact that the trend caught on in the minds of many of them is inconsequential, the underlying fact of the matter is that (in the minds of many people, male or female), “It’s better to stand out than to blend into the crowd.” If you compare streaks to tattoos or piercings, you’ll reach the same conclusion.

Comment by MaMu1977

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