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The Dye-Hards!

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Mitt Romney feels pretty good about himself and his hair. While the forgotten losers like Rick Santorum and Rick Perry are still pulling their evenly-dyed hair in frustration, Mitt shows off his ever-so-perfectly two-toned Mafia-style hair ("Grecian Formula," Mitt?) that has become a trademark of older men who have seen better days. It's the kind of teaser hair that says, "I'll give you my suave gray sideburns, but I'm not ready to go all the way!" Unfortunately, this hair color frenzy is a terrible trend we have been confronted with for some time now, and all the anxious men in politics seem to yell in desperation: "Look at me, I'm NOT gray!" So what is it with the gentlemen of a certain age -- some like to call them silver surfers, others simply annoying boomers hitting retirement age -- who are delusional enough to believe that they can fool nature and the people around them successfully?

It used to be just women, whose existential desire for perfect hair is legendary, who dyed their hair at the first sight of gray -- at least in America. Men were manly and carefree and left all those silly beauty treatments to the women who were desperate enough to submit to it. Hair dye, nose jobs, Botox injections, tummy tucks? What, us? We are God's gift and beautiful enough for everybody in our unaltered state! Actually, we women kind of admired them for their coolness and undiminished self-confidence, didn't we? Gone forever!

"Does she or doesn't she?" asked Clairol in the famous hair color ad of the sixties. The "she" has now become a "he." And yes, he does! As much as he can. With a vengeance! And now we have to endure the parade of silly men with hair in a thousand shades of brown and black who insist that the glorious mahogany hair is a generous gift from Mother Nature and not from L'Oreal, Paris.

But it isn't only the notoriously vain politicians who slap a hearty amount of fake color onto their graying hair. It is everywhere. Talk show hosts, comedians and at least 2/3 of all the men on CNN, Fox, NBC, ABC and CBS have a strangely unnatural color covering their already strange haircuts.

Naturally, the world of entertainment is still the place for baffling hair color. Elvis was the first unabashed fan of the blue-ish black dye previously reserved for Snow White, ravens, Elizabeth Taylor, Tony Curtis and Rock Hudson. But that was the fifties and the heyday of Technicolor and Kodak chrome that brought out a wild love affair with everything garish in the film industry. Today, the dyed brown brigade shies away from blue-black hair, but dye they do -- and in many adventurous hues and colors. Does anybody remember Billy Crystal hosting the Oscars this year presenting with his frizzy hair dyed to a matte, dark chocolate mass (or is it mess)? And Billy wasn't the only dapper dye-head. A close look at Tom Cruise, Gary Oldman and Robert Downey Jr. revealed shiny, evenly dark dos, a far cry from the multi-layered color of natural hair. As if one couldn't be proud of a shock of silvery hair and wear it with style and aplomb, turning a bit gray at the edges has become a disaster that needs to be covered up immediately. With a disastrous outcome. The list of shame is long and varied. Whatever happened to the chic pepper-and-salt-hair of Benicio del Toro? He now looks like he's wearing a cheap black fur hat. Sure, Sean Penn is busy, and we salute him for his humanitarian efforts, but does that mean he must scare people with a strange reddish hue on his graying head? Really disappointing is Stephen Colbert who has a sharp wit, a big ego and apparently an even bigger vanity to match. (Plus a dedicated hair colorist who is assigned to leave no single hair lighter than the darkest brown. Oh Stephen, must you really? Can't you look as fetching, even sophisticated, as your great gray friend and competitor Jon Stewart?) And look at Ricky Gervais, a really funny man with much too much dark color all over his hair and beard, all of which only distracts from his perversely biting jokes.

Good news comes from Al Pacino, who used to be in the hands of fanatical hair colorists who couldn't stop and dyed his hair, beard and eyebrows a color so dark that he looked like a caricature of an old-fashioned magician drawn in black coal. A recent photo of Al shows him in his natural gray, as is appropriate for a 72-year-old man. Not so poor Liam Neeson who, ironically, played the lead in the blockbuster The Grey, except that HE wasn't. As it is often with men who have a less-than-glorious head of hair, they overcompensate with an extra dash of bad color.

Then we have Paul McCartney, one of the early hair-dye enthusiasts. For the longest time now, Sir Paul has donned a very unfortunate reddish brown that usually comes only from having very gray hair. And here we must have a quick word about the male hair color palette, because it seems to be inspired by food and the animal kingdom. There's the classic horse and Bambi brown, the lighter knockwurst color, followed by dachshund, Irish setter and red fox. This is all nice and natural and looks fabulous on our four legged friends. But on the likes of Nicolas Cage, John Travolta, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Elton John and Italy's Silvio Berlusconi, that reddish hue looks grotesque.

If asked why they dye their hair -- nobody actually admits it -- but let's say they would, they'd come up with the two most unconvincing arguments even the most naive and colorblind onlooker wouldn't be fooled by: 1. It looks totally natural 2. It makes them look younger! NO, it doesn't. On both accounts. And what's even worse -- they all look the same. Except for "The Donald" Trump, who manages to create hair so bold in style and color that staring at him and waiting for birds to leave their nest is all one can do.

Sure, it isn't easy being old(er) in this youth obsessed society. And going gray is a big challenge for men these days, because it also means that it's near impossible to look as debonair as the Glamour-Greyhounds Cary Grant and George Clooney or as imperial as Richard Gere. But it's worth a try! So let's salute the men who dare to show off their silver in a casual, confident manner like Robert De Niro, Jeff Bridges, Michael Douglas, Jay Leno, Anderson Cooper, David Lynch and Bill Clinton...

It is also good to see that the majority of aging rock stars are the proud carriers of natural hair, from Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and Neil Young to Ringo, Charlie Watts, David Byrne and Bob Dylan. But of course, then there is Gene Simmons and it's back to ghastliness...

God forbid that Mitt Romney will become the next president. But if he did, he will be the first one (or did Reagan dye his hair?) to be a fake from head to toe.