NEW YORK — For the last decade, Kaitlyn Cullinane has had her light brown hair highlighted with golden tones in the winter and lighter ones during the warmer months. This year she decided to try something a little more dramatic.
After seeing Louis Vuitton ads with the actress Michelle Williams in a short platinum cut, Cullinane decided to go for a similar white-blond color. One appointment later, she was platinum. "It was definitely shocking," she said. "But I love it."
Platinum hair is enjoying a certain ubiquity in New York. It has taken over the offices of Lucky magazine. "It started maybe four months ago," said Jean Godfrey-June, the magazine's beauty director. "There were two or three who went platinum, and then more and more. Right now there are probably between nine and 11 platinum blondes in the office."
Platinum, she said, "is not about hiding a problem. It's not about 'Does she or doesn't she?' It's the opposite. It's 'I'm more daring than you.' It's one-upmanship." Sharon Dorram of Sharon Dorram Color at Sally Hershberger on the Upper East Side calls the trend "Blonditis."
The stylist Kate Young, who has had platinum hair for 16 years, noted that "people in design and fashion like primary-color hair colors like white or black or red because it's graphic. Models like doing something extreme because it gives them a look. Then fashion people adopt it, then music people, then everybody starts doing it."
Platinum has long had a hold on musicians, with Gwen Stefani, Lady Gaga, Sia, Rita Ora, Iggy Azalea, Robyn and Miley Cyrus all preferring the lightest possible blond. Adam Levine, the singer for Maroon 5 and a coach on "The Voice," recently went platinum.
In May, at the Costume Institute gala at the Met, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Zoë Kravitz showed up with newly pale hair, and the British actress Felicity Jones just went platinum.
Edgy and severe
The Korean-American model Soo Joo Park, who starred in last fall's Chanel ad campaign, has made platinum hair her signature. The process of taking her long, black hair white took about 10 hours, but it helped put her "on the radar quickly," she said.
Park's hair was the inspiration for Sable Yong, a contributing editor of the website xoVain, to go platinum in February. "My mom said, 'You had such beautiful hair,'" Yong said, "and my boyfriend was initially reluctant but then said, 'It actually looks really cool.' I was like, 'What do you mean, actually?'"
Platinum can work on any shade of skin, stylist Rita Hazan said. "The tone of your platinum depends on your skin tone," she said. "Olive skin should be more beige or honey, and lighter skin can go white."
The ideal platinum hair is meant to be "cool, edgy, rock 'n' roll, with a little root," she added. As such, it's less bombshell (Jayne Mansfield or Marilyn Monroe) and more aggressive, severe and asexual: Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, Blondie or Madonna circa the "Blond Ambition" tour.
Aura Friedman at Sally Hershberger Downtown is sought after for her platinum expertise. "It's about making yourself unusual," she said. "It's always fun to have that unicorn in a group of people."
While platinum hair telegraphs a certain uncompromising statement, there are other ways to interpret the trend.
"I try to talk them into a pastel shade if they have longer hair," said Simone Mangano, who is the colorist at the Headdress salon in the East Village and has several dozen platinum clients. When Abby Haliti, a senior colorist at Julian Farel Restore Salon and Spa on the Upper East Side, did Rita Ora's hair, she dyed it a warmer tone of blond and then painted platinum tones on top.
John Barrett of his namesake salon calls platinum hair "a bit of a nightmare." "If somebody wants it, I say go for more highlighted blond with thick pieces of white around the part and hairline, which will give you the illusion without compromising your hair," he said.
Despite the maintenance and vicissitudes of fashion, some women are platinum lifers. Young, the stylist, said she doesn't "even know what it is not to be platinum. I can't imagine having normal color hair anymore."
Even though Cullinane is happy with her new look, she may revert to her old habit of warm tones in cooler months. "I'll probably tone it down come winter," she said. "But I'm at least keeping it for the summer."