When we first meet Clementine Kruczynski (played by Kate Winslet) in Michel Gondry’s 2004 film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, she has blue hair. Introducing herself on a bus to Jim Carrey’s Joel Barish, she explains her reasoning behind the dye job. “It changes colour a lot,” she says. “It’s called Blue Ruin…this company makes a whole bunch of colours with equally snappy names. I apply my personality in a paste.” In watching this movie for the first time I may or may not have yelled at my TV screen, “Geez Clementine, why don’t you just wear a sign around your neck that says ‘tra la la, I’m so quirky!’” (I might have a problem with contrived one-dimensional “offbeat” film characters – yeah, I’m looking at you, Natalie Portman in Garden State). Of course, to the film’s credit, Clementine turns out to be a well-developed character and the movie escapes many typical clichés, earning Oscar nods for both Winslet and the screenplay. The reasons behind its success are evident – but since we are on a fashion blog, I will be focusing solely on Clementine’s hair.
As the film unfolds in a non-linear fashion (hey, it worked hard for that best original screenplay Oscar!), Clementine’s hair colour changes from blue to orange to red to green. While I gotta love any movie that treats a personal styling choice as a plot device – the hair colour helps keep track of the movie’s constantly shifting timeline – more appealing still is the way that it is unapologetically treated as a realistic artistic outlet. Clementine isn’t the first film character to express herself via hair colour; honourable mentions go to My So Called Life’s Angela Chase, Ghost World’s Enid Coleslaw and Whip It’s Bliss Cavendar. However, there’s something to be said for a woman who is more than a couple of years past teenager-dom willing to repeatedly experiment with crayola-coloured hair.
My own adventures with hair dye start a bit younger; going to summer camp in the ’90s, hair mascara was all the rage. The smelly, sparkly, purple-y goop joined Bonnebelle lip smackers and Caboodles nail polish as the must-have beauty products for the preteen girl set. Once I got to middle school, I was met with a strict dress code that deemed any unnatural or dramatic hair colours to be an “academic distraction.” My mother used to take me to her hair salon to get blonde highlights (occasionally I would be able to sneak by with a little bit of red in there). I made it through the eighth grade with the secret knowledge that at the back of my closet hid a bottle of L’Oreal do-it-yourself hair colouring in Purest Black.
From the first day (on the dot) after my eighth grade graduation throughout the bulk of high school, all I would need to change my hair colour was a quick trip to Shoppers Drug Mart and 45 minutes crouched over the bathroom sink with an applicator brush in hand. While black was my go-to shade of choice, I would occasionally experiment with the worlds of burgundy, plum, or other teen-angst-approved colours. Granted, I never went as artificially bright in my picks as Ms. Kruzcynski over here, but I could appreciate her need to express herself (and mark major changes in her life) with the help of some pigmented cream.
Unlike Clementine, I’ve somewhat outgrown my home-colouring ways. Purple locks aren’t as fun when it comes time to hunt for a job, and at-home hair treatments become a bit trickier when you live in a dorm and share a bathroom sink with 40 other people. Still, whenever I’m in the drugstore, I always make a point to stop at the aisle that carries all the shades of Manic Panic, tempted to give in to the little voice in my head (that sounds suspiciously like Kate Winslet with an American accent) saying, “do it! do it!”