Does she or doesn't she? The fashionable answer nowadays is always a louder and louder yes. From Manhattan to Los Angeles, a sunburst of bold, exotic and decidedly unnatural colors is streaking, squiggling and dotting across the hairstyles of the nation's trendy younger set, and even making inroads among more mature professionals. The startling palette of reds and blues, golds and silvers, greens and purples comes from inexpensive temporary hair-coloring products that are easily applied at home and almost as easily showered away. Confrontational coloration, once a shocking British and American punk emblem, is now celebrated as the sleek plumage of the up-and-coming yuppie generation. Says Steven Docherty, art director of the Vidal Sassoon hairstyling empire: "It's color without the commitment."
The new wave of brassy hues is a far cry from the messy peroxide products of yore. Available in sprays, styling mousses and gels, and lately in applicator wands similar to those used for mascara, the bold hair shades are dabbed on as bright decoration, slathered on as an overall tint, or tipped into the hair to match eye shadows or even jewelry. Colors on the market include both vibrant and pastel offerings, with names like Red Riot, Hot Pink and Ultra Violet (although steady favorites are metallic and shimmery shades of gold). Many of the hip hues can be sluiced away with one shampooing; others require as many as six. "They're cosmetics for the hair," declares James Viera of L'Oréal, which sells its wash-away dyes at drugstore cosmetic counters across the country. Says Diane Wonnell, 23, a Philadelphia medical student who sometimes turns her brown locks copper red for an evening's fun: "It's funky and sexy. It's like painting your nails."
Teenagers buy the quick hair switch because "it's fun," giggles Adriana Zabarkes, 16, a senior at New York City's hautprep Trinity School. Besides, she adds, "nobody seems to like their own hair." In Los Angeles, where red is the hair flavor of the day, the aim among youngsters often is to imitate such scarlet-tressed idols as Teen Actress Molly Ringwald and Sarah Ferguson, the new Duchess of York. Older trendies are often attracted by the instant but revocable shock value. Explains Allan Mottus, publisher of the Informationist, a beauty-industry newsletter: "Monday through Friday you can have one life-style and then change it on Saturday night. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde lives."
Men, too, are getting into the wear-and-wash act. Around parts of the Sunbelt, young collegians and high schoolers have begun aping the University of Oklahoma's star linebacker, Brian Bosworth, who has been seen sporting a streak of black on one side of his blond hairdo and an ever changing rainbow effect on the other side. His ultrashort hair, however, sometimes presents problems: the color occasionally refuses to hold. New York University Freshman Paul Nagle prefers to highlight his brown waves with an electric shade of aubergine to complement his camouflage fatigues. He calls the fad a kind of "Disney rebellion." Says Nagle: "It's a symbol no one can understand until they do it."