On tonight’s season six premiere of Mad Men, [beauty spoiler alert!] Betty went from Hitchcock blonde to Elizabeth Taylor brunette by show’s end. The episode was rife with existential quandaries and death references, but never fear, Weiner & Co. did not neglect the ever-present subplot of blondes versus brunettes. Roger Sterling appears early in the episode, complaining to his therapist, “None of them are really blonde anyways. She’s 29 years old. Hair darkens by that age, so she’s probably a brunette.” Sorry, blondies, Sterling’s onto you all. Then Betty, with her Princess Grace locks protected by a silk kerchief, has a bad interaction with a future member of the Weather Underground who calls the suburbanite out on her cookie cutter image. “Elizabeth Hofstadt Francis,” he taunts, as he reads off her driver’s license. “Eyes: blue. Hair: bottled. We don’t like your life anymore than you do.”
Sure enough, by episode’s end, Betty unveils a dramatic new dye job. Her son Bobby’s reaction? “You look ugly!” Sally looks delightfully judgmental and Henry sticks to the diplomatic, “Elizabeth Taylor, what have you done with my wife?” Among starlets and regular women alike, changing hues has always been a favorite tactic for changing conversations. Putting aside all of the end-of-an-era symbolism and other points the writers of Mad Men were likely making, we gathered up a bunch of celebs who’ve made the switch, and asked some of their stylists what prompts their clients to impulsively go brunette.
Redken celebrity colorist Tracy Cunningham, who keeps Minka Kelly, Leighton Meester, and Fergie’s natural blonde hidden away, says her clients come clamoring for the drastic shade change for a bevvy of reasons. “‘My eyes will pop’ or ‘my hair is really damaged and I just want to give my hair a break’ or ‘because Cameron Diaz looked so good with brown hair’ or ‘because I just saw Reese Witherspoon and her eyes look so blue,’” she quickly rattles off. But for the celeb set, it’s hard to tell if they’re coloring their hair for a role or just for the hell of it. “Oftentimes my clients feel like they’ll have a better chance of getting better roles if they are brunette,” says Harry Josh, a color expert at John Frieda. “She’s going to do it for an incredible piece of work, that will showcase her range as an actor. It’s probably a serious film, something that’s award winning, it’s certainly not going to be for a romantic comedy.” And contrary to what you might think, going brunette might not improve hair’s health. “Some clients think that going dark will help repair damaged hair,” cautions Brookyln-based colorist, Chelsey Pickthorn. “But I’m not a fan of that because the damage has already been done, this won’t fix it.”
So will Betty be any less of an ice queen with her sensible, dark locks? Will she start hugging her kids and finally read The Feminine Mystique? Is she ready to grow up at last? Has America changed forever and for the worse? Only the rest of season six will tell. “Every woman who has been more blonde in her life than brunette always goes back,” warns our expert, Harry Josh. “It never lasts. Without fail.”
Let the blonde backslide begin! In the meantime, click through our slideshow to see other recognizable blondes who took the plunge to chocolate brown, including Zooey Deschanel (naturally) to Dakota Fanning, Scarlett Johansson, Reese Witherspoon, and more.