Fall colors: What’s behind that hair dye?

UC Berkeley is a campus of diversity, whether it be color, background, culture, experience or interests. So Berkeley News intern Irene Yi spent an afternoon wandering around asking students, staff, alumni and faculty what was up with their colored hair. From students embracing inevitable baldness to professors who just want a little color in their life, she found the stories behind the style. 


a student with orange hair

“I’ve dyed my hair almost every color of the rainbow, several times. The only colors I haven’t dyed my hair are orange and yellow, so I wanted to dye it orange. As you can see, it turned a very reddish-orange. The first time I dyed my hair, it was five years ago. The hair-coloring trend hadn’t quite taken off yet, so it was bold. I think my hair is an expression of my creativity; I have a colorful personality, and I like that my hair matches that.” — Summer Strom, student

a student with blue green hair

“I’m the kind of person who needs to change their appearance consistently, otherwise I get bored. I had pink hair earlier, but I didn’t like it anymore. Last week, I bleached my hair and dyed it this shade of sea foam green. For me, my hair is a physical expression of my identity. Before, I used to get made fun of a lot for my appearance. For a really long time, I just tried to look the same way everyone else looked. It was hard being a person of color who grew up in a predominantly white town. After a while, I stopped caring what other people thought about me. By doing crazy things with my hair, it’s my way of going against the social norms of conventional beauty.” — Desmarie Jackson, student

a student with rainbow hair

“My natural hair color is black, like my dark, emo soul. The first time I dyed my hair was the summer going into 11th grade, and I actually used the same dye back then as I have in my hair right now–which is called Manic Panic Voodoo Blue. The reason I did it is so cheesy: because I’m going away to college now, I wanted it to be the same color as the first time I ever dyed it. It’s kind of like a cyclical, full-circle thing — very romantic. I am a lot more confident in myself after I dyed my hair; I also just have a lot more angst. I’ve always been pretty punk rock emotionally, but now I am physically, too. It also makes me feel like an active member in the communities I belong to, especially the queer community. It adds this sense of identity. People used dyed hair to say, ‘Hey, this is who I am.’” — Aaron Saliman, student

a student with pink hair

“My natural hair color is medium-brown. In February of this year, I dyed my hair very blonde. I did it partially because I was living abroad, and I knew my parents couldn’t do anything about it; I wanted to assert my independence. The other reason I did it was because I felt like it was a post-breakup, want-to-change-my-appearance thing. I like the change. After going blonde, people sometimes assume that I’m very ‘basic.’ Their first assumption of me is that I might not be very smart, but I think it’s fun to challenge that stereotype. I’m not just a white L.A. girl; actually, I’m half-Asian, really nerdy, and super into classical music and literature. People might think one thing of me when first seeing my hair, but then their assumptions are challenged when they start talking to me. I don’t know if blondes have more fun, but I did notice more people would approach me on the streets, and I’m fine if my hair color makes me seem more approachable. I’m at a point in my life where I don’t want to blend in.” — Madeline Zimring, alumna

a student with blue hair

“I wanted to have dark blue hair, but I didn’t want to commit to it, in case it didn’t look good. I decided the way to commit halfway was to just dye half my head dark blue and keep the other half light blue. If the dark blue looks bad, at least it only looks bad on one side.” — Aris Richardson, student

a student with green hair

“I don’t like the color of my hair naturally. It’s a dirt brown; it’s just bland. I had a pixie cut for a while, and at first I was trying to grow it out, but I never really liked how it looked. I kept waiting for it to be a length that I liked, and finally I was like, ‘This is bullshit.’ I decided to just shave it all off last March. My hair has been this short for over a year, and I have had so many positive reactions to it. Everyone I know keeps saying they can’t even imagine what I looked like with long hair now that I cut it short. It’s kind of freeing without all that hair; it’s one less thing I have to worry about. My shaved head has kind of become a trademark for me. I’ve encouraged so many people to shave their heads. I shaved my friend’s head a week ago; my roommate has a shaved head. Everyone should shave their heads; it’s great.” — Natalie MacMillan, student

a professor with pink hair

“At this point, my ‘natural’ hair color is white. I dyed my hair pink in March of 2015. I don’t know exactly why I did it, but I like bright colors. Most people reacted pretty positively. One colleague wondered if I had a life crisis. I said, ‘No, I just like bright colors.’ My hair makes me feel brighter, and I really like this color. The most noticeable thing is how random people compliment you — and little girls are fascinated by the pink hair.” — Andrew Garrett, linguistics professor

a student with pink hair

“I started dyeing my hair because everyone in my family lost all their hair by the time they were 30. I was like, ‘I have five more years of this hair. If I intensively bleach it and dye it, and I lose a year of the hair, that’s fine. Then I’ll just have four more years of it — rather than five years of boring hair. It’s here for a good time, not for a long time.’ I’m from India, and after I dyed my hair, I started noticing that I was getting treated so much better at the airport. I think airport security saw my dyed hair and just thought I was ‘some punk kid’ rather than ‘dude coming from India.’ The number of times I got stopped and ‘randomly’ searched dropped. At customs, they used to want to go through my checked bags; after I dyed my hair, that completely, 100 percent stopped. That was a massive consequence of dyeing my hair that I did not expect to happen. Also, when I would go back to India, people usually try to get their sons married off, but once the hair color changed, that also stopped. I think the intersection of people who want their daughters to get married to someone and the people who are okay with marrying someone with colored hair — it’s next to nobody. So now I’m just roaming free.” — Yuvi Panda, operations architect at Berkeley Institute for Data Science

a student with green hair

“I dyed my hair four weeks ago. I had a made a bet with a friend; I knew we both wanted to dye our hair, but we would never do it without a push, so I decided to make a bet with him over spring break. I actually won that bet, but I thought he looked good with dyed hair, and I decided to dye mine too. At first, I was really conscious of the change. Now, I sometimes even forget about the fact that I have blue hair until I see myself in a mirror and remember, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m putting out a look.’” — Clay Halbert, student

a student with blue hair

“My hair expresses who I am. After dyeing it for the first time in September 2017, I’m starting to like myself more.” — Lance Wu, student

a student with purple hair

“The first time I dyed my hair was two or three years ago, and it was purple. People definitely look at you differently after you dye your hair. The older generation that I knew were all asking me, ‘Oh, what are you doing with dyed hair?’ and other people might think ‘Oh, you’re cool; you’re fun.’ My mom absolutely hated my hair. When she walked in after I did it, she completely flipped out. I’ve wanted this hair color for well over a year, and now I finally have it. It takes three or four different conditioners to take care of this hair, but it’s worth it.” — Stephanie Pinto, student

a student with purple hair

“The first time I dyed my hair was when I was 14, and it was bright red. I saw a lot of pictures online of people with dyed hair, and it really inspired me to do it too. I just always wanted to be that person with colorful hair. It was the summer before freshman year of high school, so it was like a transition into a new phase in my life. I dye it myself; I would just watch a lot of videos on how to do it. I’ve also read a bunch of articles about bleaching your hair properly, and the rest is just trial and error. I’ve felt more like myself after I dyed my hair different colors. Every time my natural colors start to grow back in, I feel less and less like myself until I dye my hair again. It’s a part of who I am.” — Luna Khalil, student