The term “mallrat” can be defined as an adolescent with nothing better to do on a Friday night than loiter outside the local Hot Topic. Said individual claims to have a uniquely original style, despite looking nearly identical to his or her rebellious friends.
More than one of us spent a portion of our adolescence as mallrats — our uniform consisted of skinny jeans, band T-shirts and bright, multicolored hair covering at least one eye. While much of the mall-punk aesthetic has, thankfully, disappeared in the last decade, rainbow-hued hair does not necessarily need to be burned with our Algebra I homework.
Despite the ugly results of over-processing that accompany impulsive hair dyeing, the appeal of candy-colored hair remains, especially since wild hair color permeates today’s pop culture. Celebrities like Lady Gaga and Rihanna seem to sport a different hair color with every outfit, and ombre hair and dip dyes are making appearances more than ever on street style blogs and runways.
Unconventional hair colors aren’t just for mallrats. The trick to pulling off a not-found-in-nature shade is to aim for sophistication over shock, and above all, avoid destroying the health of your hair.
CAS sophomore Mackenzie Brady, who naturally has dirty blond hair, dyed her locks purple last spring by using a semi-permanent dye.
“I had done the short hair, I had done the long hair, I had done the shaved head,” Brady said, recalling her desire for color after trying avant-garde haircuts. “Dye was the only thing left.”
She noticed her purple hair drew more attention than her natural color, and she said she had to “rock it and not really care” about stares. However, she thinks crazy colors are transitioning into the mainstream, and most people don’t look twice when they see someone with wild color.
While Brady dyed her own hair, she said she would be hesitant to bleach it at home, noting the risk of turning her hair into a dry, brittle mess. Her verdict was that bleaching is best left to a professional.
CAS sophomore Tanner Nelson said he treats his hair as an accessory and has frequently changed its color to match his state of mind — he has done everything from black to red to his current two-toned blond and brown inspired by Miley Cyrus.
“I want my hair to look good, not just wacky,” Nelson said, emphasizing the importance of choosing a style rather than an attention-seeking mess of color.
He said most responses to his hair are positive, indicative of NYU’s open-minded community, but he also highlighted that the key to this positive feedback was pulling off dye in a grown-up way.
Nelson said he believes a cool dye job can make you memorable and help you express yourself. He said everyone should try a new color.
While neon green might not be everybody’s go-to color, a subtle ombre or highlight can be a fashionable way to add some color without appearing too over-the-top. With careful maintenance, crazy colors can add something truly unique to your personal style, even past the age of 15.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Sept. 18 print edition. Alyssa Buffenstein is a contributing writer. Email her at [email protected]