FEW things are worse for your self-image than sitting in the hairdresser’s chair in a shapeless gown, facing a mirror, with bedraggled wet hair. It’s as if you’ve just been plucked by the RNLI from a capsized boat, and wrapped up against hypothermia. Even more dismal is when that hair is the colour of Aberdeen in January: not sparkling granite, but slate grey, the shade of decrepitude and defeat. Or so I thought of it, as the stylist scissored off the lockdown inches last month, turning back the clock by at least five years. When, by way of scintillating conversation, I mentioned that all my highlights had grown out but I was thankfully booked in for more, she said she actually liked the way it was at the moment. The word she used was minky.

My dictionary defines a mink as a mammal with short legs, long, thick neck, broad head with short rounded ears. It’s not the look I was aiming for, so I ignored her. Seven days later, back in the salon, the colourist looked at me from every angle, ran her fingers through my hair, and said that if she was me, she wouldn’t touch it.

Finally it became clear that they weren’t just being diplomatic. Going grey, white, or a blend of the two, is no longer the unspeakable divide that separates the youthful from the walking dead.

For the first time since women discovered there were more uses for bleach than disinfecting the toilet it’s okay not to be blonde, brunette or auburn, nor to disguise the brutal truth that your follicles are well past their prime.

READ MORE ROSEMARY: The call of the mild

Thanking the colourist, ripping off the plastic gown and exiting the hairdresser’s looking exactly as when I entered, the sense of liberation was rejuvenating. I had made the valiant effort to ward off accusations of running to seed, and discovered I needn’t have worried. Just thinking of the time, not to mention money, this would save in future was such a tonic that I walked to my next appointment rather than take the bus.

Grey and Proud – GAP – I now learn, is the fashion for women of a certain age. “Statement grey” is the phrase coined to describe the new colour range we have been hiding for so long. As one stylist put it, instead of being seen as an ‘old’ colour, instead it’s a ‘different’ colour. With many Grey and Proud years ahead, one hopes, there is a sense that the Barbie doll era might be well and truly behind us.

HeraldScotland: Rosemary Goring's new lookRosemary Goring's new look

Lockdown was the trigger, of course, as millions of us discovered our roots without digging in the national archives. At this novel sight, we either rushed out to the chemist or decided to see how we’d look when decades of tint finally grew out. The answer was, like ourselves.

This gradual, sometimes painful process was effectively the reverse of an art restorer’s job, in which years of accumulated grime are rubbed off an old master to reveal the original in all its vivid glory. For those who were previously dyed, what we uncovered was at the other end of the spectrum: less bright, but maybe not so awful either.

Is it any surprise that this trend has gathered pace in the wake of the MeToo movement? Hardly. I see it as a riposte to years of inequality and power games, of double-think and double standards, attitudes sadly promoted as much by women as by men.

Older males in the public eye are routinely described, with approval, as silver foxes – think George Clooney or Richard Gere, whose looks have improved with age. Meanwhile their female counterparts are expected to spend fortunes on beauty treatments and surgical procedures, simply to maintain the fiction that time cannot wither them.

Now, as proved by the likes of Helen Mirren, with her glamorous glossy white hair, or Andie MacDowell, who has emerged from lockdown with a smoky grey mane, to be seen with salt and pepper hair is no longer one step from morphing into Miss Marple. Silver foxes come in more than one gender.

HeraldScotland: A grey haired modelA grey haired model

Recognising that there’s no shame in going grey is a major advance for older women’s status. For the middle-aged, working in offices alongside younger colleagues or taking Zoom video calls where the lens cruelly adds a century or two, can seriously dents confidence. You feel an all too visible relic of the past.

The sense of freedom this grey-roots movement offers stems from a dawning awareness that women don’t need to pretend to be something they are not. As with MeToo, when thousands spoke out about long-hidden abuses and challenged a system designed by and for men, finally to appreciate grey heads as a positive and upbeat look for women allows us to regain our self-respect.

In fact, embracing rather than obliterating grey hair might be as important a step as when women first wore trousers. Those trailblazers – hussies was the word more commonly used at the time – scandalised a society that saw such practical garb as offensively unfeminine. Worse, it would ruin their chances of catching a man.

READ MORE ROSEMARY: Pray for an end to Alzheimers

Now, by defying the out-dated stereotype of blondes having more fun, or the fear that the first streaks of grey signal the beginning of the end, women can proudly display their vintage and their hard-won experience. Enlightened employers ought actively to welcome tangible proof that they have members of staff whose appearance immediately denotes authority and wisdom.

Nor is it women alone who might benefit. Since the advent of Grecian 2000, men have faced merciless mockery for trying to turn back the clock by hitting the bottle – remember President Trump's attorney Rudi Giuliani, whose dye ran when he began to sweat? – or having hair implants to cover their bald pates. Maybe now, as women find the courage to allow nature to take its course, men might feel they can follow suit.

But more than anything, this new acceptance of advancing years is about women finding and feeling comfortable in their rightful place. Going for silver rather than gold is a political as well as a personal statement. It is a gentle reminder that far, from being cast into the shade, age and maturity should be allowed to shine.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of the Herald.