A few years back, Pam Hart was going through a rough time. She was in a funk and needed something to shake her out of it.

"I was having a lot of back pain and it was hard for me to walk, so I got myself a walker," Hart recalls. "I felt old and yucky so I went to my hairdresser and I told her, 'I've just got to do something.'"

She walked out of Talk of the Town in Green Valley with part of her hair a bright turquoise.

Hart, 69, no longer needs her walker, but she still has her distinctive look.

"It makes me feel good," says Hart, who has multiple sclerosis.

Turquoise, purple, pink, green. It's not just for punk rockers anymore.

Lori DeBie, owner of Zeta Hair and Day Spa, and Jennifer Nash, owner of Talk of the Town, say "fashion colors" have become a big hit with their older clients, particularly within the last year.

"People come to Green Valley to live so why not have fun hair to go and do fun things?" DeBie says.

Hart, who lives in Green Valley, chose turquoise because she tends to wear the color a lot. Judging from reactions, she chose correctly.

"My hair is white, white, white, and I always have people come up to me after church to ask me, 'Where did you get this done?'" Hart says. "I get stopped whether I'm here or in Portugal or Spain. I just got back from Spain. People just love it."

Stylist Susanna Urquijo said she regularly gets customers at Zeta who say, "I don't want an old-lady hair cut."

Nash has the same experience.

"They just want to stay fashionable and it's socially acceptable now," Nash says. "And, since they're older, they have carte blanche and they want to express themselves."

Lots of compliments

Katie Hoffman, a hairdresser at Zeta, recently had an older client ask for a small strip of color on a whim.

"She just wanted a change. She's lived 83 years and always been conservative, and I always come in with crazy colors in my hair," Hoffman says. "She got curious."

The first time the client had it done the color was too subtle for her, so she went brighter the second time around, Hoffman says.

Green Valley resident Marie Rogers, 80, says Stephanie Bojorquez from Zeta has been putting blonde highlights in her hair for years. She recently switched to purple.

"She asked me if I wanted something different and I'm always up for a change," Rogers says. "Now I might branch out and try something different next time, maybe pink. I always have pink fingernails and pink toenails."

She gets a lot of compliments, she says.

Beverly Karsch, 74, of Sahuarita was at a retreat in Sonoita a couple of years back when she saw a woman  older than her with purple streaks in her hair.

She came home and went to Nash to ask for the same. She has always "marched to the beat of a different drum" — she got her first tattoo in the '70s, when few women dared.

"I've thought about adding orange to match my newest tattoo," Karsch says, pointing out the Phoenix on her ankle.

Stylist Esmeralda Lava said she was deeply moved when one of her older clients came to her at Zeta and asked for purple tips. It seems her husband had teased her about dying her hair purple after seeing a TV ad shortly after they'd scheduled a cruise.

The woman declined, but when her husband died unexpectedly, she got the purple tips to honor him, Lava says.

Her boldest client has nine colors in her waist-length hair, including fuchsia,  teal, peach, and mint green.

"When you see her from the back you'd never think she was 73 years old," Lava says.

People who add a fashion color don't have to be quite so daring, Urquijo says.

"It doesn't mean turning your whole head into a crazy color," she says.

They can go vivid or have just a "kiss of color," and they can have streaks or entire panels of hair done. Clients can also choose cuts that allow them to hide or reveal their colors depending on their mood or the occasion.

Nash calls the later style "peekaboos." She has yet to have a client ask for a color to be stripped from their hair; they've always loved the outcome.

Just do it!

People should be more adventurous with their hair, DeBie says.

"Hair's a renewable resource. It grows, it comes back and it's new again," she says.

As for cost, it depends on how much hair is being covered with the semi-permanent dye and the length  The colors slowly fade with each wash so it's up to the clients as to when they want to have it re-done. 

"It's only high maintenance if they want it to be high maintenance," DeBie says.

And fashion colors aren't just for women.

Urquijo recently had a client come in just before his 75th birthday party.

"He has a purple muscle car and he wanted to wow everyone at his party so he decided his hair should match his car."  

Kim Smith | 520-547-9740

Assistant Editor Kim Smith moved to Arizona from Michigan when she was 16. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in journalism in 1989. She has worked at seven newspapers of varying size in Arizona, Texas and Nevada.

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