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Feature: Blondes of Helsinki Prefer The Dark Side

Blondes prefer to be brunettes in Helsinki

Blondes prefer to be brunettes in Helsinki



Blonde in Helsinki: your roots are showing.


By: I. Bourgeault-Tassé

Montreal, Quebec


If there was ever a city to make peace with ones roots, it’s Helsinki.


This funky-cool, laid-back, effortlessly chic city charms with its French macaroon houses. Soft pink, daffodil yellow, powder blue heritage mansions, flanked by occasional somber Soviet-era building buildings set a perfectly ethereal stage for this city of blondes.


Helsinki is a city of blondes.  Blondes who would have plucked at Alfred Hitchcock’s heart strings.


But among them, innocent milkmaid redheads and pale brunettes.  And occasionally, the wild-maned redhead, the punk-rocker with her short pink do, the hippie girl with the rainbow braids.  And, I notice, a small army of dark, rich, faux-brunettes.


Brunettes like me.


I first notice them at Kicks, a Scandinavian version of Sephora. They are raven and chocolate-haired beauties, standing in line behind me as I buy brunette dry-shampoo. I’ve heard about this mystical hair powder, coloured brown for women of my tribe (read: Brunettes; Kicks features at least three brands – Batiste, Kicks, and a brand I can only recall as “very expensive,” according to the salesgirl).


But as I pay, I notice that the raven and chocolate-haired beauties have the slight, sun-faded brassiness of my own dyed hair.  And at the root, a sprout of fair loveliness. It’s almost shocking.  A blonde has dyed her hair brown?


“You will be exotic,” my friends tell me before leaving.


I had seldom been exotic.  I had grown up with mousey brown hair that eventually became a pale espresso with hints of gold (from my father) and red (from my freckled ginger great-grandfather).


As a 13-year old, I had befriended a Nordic beauty who claimed to be a descendants of Vikings. Her hair was pure platinum with shocks of honey-gold.We were young, teenage girls, struggling with beauty and boys. And in my 13-year old mind, blonde always won. Blonde is desirable, exotic, unique. Brown is everyday. Brown is boring. When I entered university in the early 2000s, the North American blonde trend continued.  J.Lo and Beyoncé burst onto the scene, turning to the bottle and the weave for their blonde.



Rainbow of hues for the hairs of Helsinki

Rainbow of hues for the hairs of Helsinki



My blonde-resentment grew. So much so that one night, at the age of 19, while dancing up a storm in a club, my Viking friend told me to stop slamming blondes.  A feminist, I reasoned that it wasn’t in womankind’s best interest to resent my fellow sisters.  But above all, I reasoned that I needed to make peace with my roots, my brown hair.


Acceptance of my hair, lead to like, which eventually turned to love.  It carried my “roots” – no pun intended – my French Canadian ancestry, my Indigenous ancestors, my (possibly) Jewish Great-Grandmother.  And today, I can’t imagine myself anything other that a brunette (though I still lovingly refer to my sister as a “blond egiraffe”).


“My grandmother was dark-haired, and she was the exotic beauty in her village,” my friend Angela tells me. Blonde, blue-eyed Angela, whose parents migrated from Lithuania. ”Can you imagine, with twenty or so hours of darkness in winter? Evolution demanded that you were pale so that you might absorb all the Vitamin D possible,” she continues.


I am sitting at La Famiglia (being irrationally frightened of sea-food, I have broken my own rule and forgone local cuisine and went Italian), sandwiched between Chanel, Marimeko (a favourite of Jackie Kennedy), Mango, and H&M (yes, from Rome, to Toronto, to Helsinki, the fitting room line is long world-wide), the terrace waitresses are a microcosm of hair trends I have observed in Helsinki.


Hannah, my waitress is a flaming red hair; the girl who replaces her a platinum blonde Rapunzel; and waiting tables further away, a pierced-nose, ice-blue pin-up girl. I am intrigued. I ask Hannah: why red? (Secretly wondering if she is tired of blonde). As it turns out, sensitive skin (and probably the artic winter) had made her intolerant of blonde, a “colour” that strips the hair shaft of its colour. And brown wouldn’t stick. But, living out her recent winters in the Canary Islands, she had discovered a 3-Euro box of cheap, vibrant red. And thus she was reborn a flame-haired lovely.


But, she will betray her tribe (read: natural blondes). She tells me – hush! – that most Finnish women aren’t blonde. Gasp! Pearls clutched in horror! In fractured English, she tells me most Finnish women have grey hair. Her shaky English (though certainly better than my Finnish) leads me to believe that that perhaps she means that Finnish women have a version of mousy, dark, natural blonde (a shade darker than the brown I was born with). The kind of blonde that needs a little help and encouragement from the bottle.


And with that, in a Helsinki cafe, I make final peace with my hair, my roots. After all, even those of us born with a golden halo need help from a bottle.



Illustrations by Fotolia.com 



*Isabelle Bourgeault-Tassé is an aspiring writer, budding world traveler, and explorer of the ateliers of fashion artisans around the world. She tweets @Isabelle_BT and blogs at atelier.tumblr.com.


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