"When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple. With a red hat, which doesn't go and doesn't suit me." You've read it on posters, cocktail napkins, and at least one of your relative's Facebook pages. Jenny Joseph's poem "Warning" has been a subversive call to arms for the propriety-buckers of the world for decades. It was even voted Britain's best loved poem (which feels like a bit of an insult to the likes of Alfred Lord Tennyson, but if the Brits can live with that, so can we). And while we certainly support the idea of wearing whatever the hell you want (not to mention brandy, shoe shopping, and grocery store sample-indulgence) there's something buried in that first line that we have to balk at. Namely, the idea that after you reach an, ahem, certain age, that there's no reason to care how you look—or more to the point, that women beyond 30, 40, 50, etc. can't be beautiful.
Of course, there's a huge segment of the beauty industry devoted to fighting that very idea with creams, dyes, and the occasional trip to the doctor's office, yet most of them set their goal toward camouflaging your age. But looking your best doesn't necessarily mean covering up your laugh lines or gray hair. Case in point, every single one of these gorgeous models are showing the world what the words "silver fox" really mean—with not a red hat in sight. Consider them inspiration the next time you're trying to figure out how to work a root touch-up into your already cram-packed schedule.
You may recognize this 60 year-old from the splash she made (pun very much intended) earlier this year with her swimsuit campaign for The Dreslyn and Land of Women. And while getting a swimwear photoshoot is a rarity for anyone, seeing a model with a long, dove-gray mane advertising slinky, form-fitting swimsuits is quite an accomplishment. Rossi's choice to go au naturale - with her hair, that is - wasn't so much born of the desire to make a statement as it was a matter of being particular about how she wants to spend her hours. "I'm passionate about what I'm doing. I have no time," she told The Guardian about the decision not to dye her hair. She also adds that she's refused "a lot of money" to change her soft gray shade. Clearly none of those people have seen how amazing it looks on her.
Quite possibly the most iconic gray mane in the fashion world belongs to Carmen Dell'Orefice. With four Vogue covers to her name and more editorials and runway shows than you could shake a dye brush at, Dell'Orefice has one of the longest-running careers in modeling history, most of it with gray hair. After going prematurely gray, Dell'Orefice gave up on coloring and embraced her natural white-gold shade at the tender age of 26. Considering the 85 year old is still working steadily for everyone from Rolex to Missoni, we're going to call that a good decision.
There are a couple of edicts on what you should do with your hair once you reach that ill-defined but forever-ominous "certain age." The first, of course, is to dye the living daylights out of it, and the second is that you must, must, cut it short. Iconic '90s model McMenamy gives the middle finger to both of those rules and looks fabulous doing it. McMenamy famously wears her naturally silver locks (she gave up on dye in her late 30s) in long, cascading waves or stick-straight sheets down to her waist. Who says there are no gray-haired mermaids?
Of course, going short and gray doesn't mean rocking your grandma's old 'do. Just check out Musk's ultra-chic crop, complete with next-level platinum that any twentysomething would drool over. "When I was approaching 60, I got sick of being blonde, so I decided to stop coloring my hair. I grew out the gray and I cut it short. People said, "You'll never work again with short gray hair," but it came out white and everybody loved it," she said. "I got a billboard in Times Square for Target and a billboard in Madison Square Garden for Verizon and my career took off."
Former makeup artist Cindy Joseph didn't start her career in front of the camera until she was almost 50 (with a campaign for Dolce & Gabanna no less), and she owes it all to her ash-gray waves. "I started to silver—I use that word because silver is valued in our society—when I was in my early 30s. I had a pretty distinctive streak by 38. At 43, I was silver all around my face. I was not comfortable with it," she told Refinery29. "After six years, I realized I was covering what I was celebrating: my age! So, I threw out the bottle of dye and went silver. The day I chopped off the last bit of dye, I was approached to model!"
Becoming the oldest model ever to appear in the pages of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue may not seem like much of a contest (being over 30 is enough to put you in the running) but earlier this year, Nicola Griffin nabbed the title with an ad for Swimsuits for All featuring the 56 year old sporting a shimmering gold bikini and long nickel-gray hair. For those who've tried going natural before only to turn back to the trusty dye bottle a few weeks in, don't worry, it's not just you—even flawless-maned models have their insecure moments. "The two years where it was growing out, it looked horrendous. Then a woman in a tea shop said to me, 'I like your hair,' and I thought, Do you mean me? You like my hair? How can you like it, it's gray?" Griffin told New York Magazine. "I realized it does look nice … It certainly suits me more than dyeing it."
Just having an Instagram account is enough to set Selfe apart from your average 88-year-old, let alone having one that sports regular behind the scenes shots from the model's latest fashion shoots. In fact, Selfe's bio bills her as the World's Oldest Professional Model, which is almost as #goals as Selfe's flowing white-gray hair, which she wears pulled back in simple knots or elaborate coifs (she says this highlights her bone structure) often alongside big, bold sunglasses. Once a fashion girl, always a fashion girl.
Not all gray hair falls into the salt and pepper or white spectrum; in fact for many redheads and blondes, going gray is a much more flaxen proposition. Just look at Danish actress and model, Gronning, whose sleek gray hair is shot through with buttercream highlights. "The only time I ever dyed my hair was for a job, for a hair-color brand. It's like the 'law' that you have to use their product, and it messed up my hair. After that, I said never, ever again," she told J. Crew for their Style at Any Age project. We say more power to her. With a color that beautiful, who would want to cover it anyway?
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.