Style icon: Clementine (or, What a Fictional Character’s Hair Colour Taught me About Myself)

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.
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