Orange Is The New Bleach (Just Ask KJ Apa)

Murray Clark
Photo credit: Getty Images

From Esquire

You may not have heard of KJ Apa. But 17 and a half million people have. On Instagram, naturally. For the land of #spon and money is fertile ground for new gen pin-ups, and it's where the star has flourished on the back of Riverdale (which is a very 'you betcha!' comic book-based teen series with an inexplicable link to the fictional not-at-all-rock rock band, Josie and the Pussycats). But what has placed Apa head and shoulders above other would-be heartsmashers is his actual head: a handsome one most noticeable for a lick of burnt orange.

Not quite ginger and not quite the hi-shine fluoro of a Burning Man lifer, the 22-year-old's locks were a requirement of his on-screen job – a flame-lidded football player by the name of Archie Andrews – though it may've also caused a previous trend to dye out: bleach.

During a never-ending summer that lasted at least three years, famous (and not so famous) men reached for the peroxide bottle, droughting hair in a bid to become a gun-toting Montague from Baz Luhrmann's only decent film. Bleached hair meant you were wiiiiiiild, brother. It meant you were Zayn Malik, and Zac Efron, and Justin Bieber, and Chris Messina, and that tall, trumpet-voiced man from Maroon 5. It meant you were an ice-capped shepherd, not a sheep, like a mid-Eighties Beckham too, and Ryan Gosling in 2011, and, literally, every other single man in Soho at 2am. For all its supposed anarchy, bleached hair really is quite ubiquitous.

Orange hair, less so. Where fellow heartthrob Noah Centineo chose to go for a more classic shade of 'the old me is dead, OK mom?!' – which meant a simple, high-grade buzzcut – Apa's unique strain of carrot top is a welcome change of pace.

"We’ve been seeing a slight uplift in colour on guys in the last year," says colour expert and barber at Ruffians, Nick Campbell. "And this particular look is so casual that you know it takes hours of a professional's time to achieve."

Photo credit: Getty Images

So, you can expect to spend the best part of a Saturday afternoon in the barber's chair. "First, we'd need to pre-soften the surface of the hair. This allows the colour to take at the required shade. Then, it's a case of applying a lighter colour to the lengths and ends, and allowing it to go through half the development time; it's at this stage the roots can be painted in the same tone, but two shades darker. That'll take around three hours to achieve, followed by a cut that lets a scissor graduated taper reveal the shadows around the shorter lengths to support more vivid tones."

Evidence also suggests that is no isolated case. While 2017's cup of bleach runneth over, there are wisps of orange hair in the broader celebrity orbit. At Paris Fashion Week, Japan's finest right foot Hidetoshi Nakata debuted a coppery crop, which isn't all that surprising given the 43-year-old's status as a proper, intellectual fan of menswear. K-pop too, increasingly a source of pop cultural replication, as the members of an absurdly famous boyband Astro see red. And, way back in 2011, another ascendant star of the name Robert Pattinson was shedding his pin-up skin to become an actor proper, and he did so with a fleeting mop of dark red hair.

So before the new season makes us all go a bit funny, and a sea of bleach begins to mottle the pubs and parks and after-parties of a long cruel summer, know that there's to be a new hair colour on your Instagram feed. And 17 million people (and counting) seem to like it.

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