Seattle finally got its Portlandia moment last summer with the publication of “Where’d You Go, Bernadette,” the comedic best-seller (and upcoming movie) by Maria Semple. The book’s main character, Bernadette — a recent transplant to Seattle from Los Angeles — has nothing but disdain for her adopted hometown. She skewers Seattleites as a polar-fleece-clad, smugly progressive bunch of elitists. And she finds the women here to be styleless and drab. Of all Bernadette’s scathing wisecracks about Seattle, this one was probably the most-often repeated in book reviews:
There are two hairstyles here: short gray hair and long gray hair. You go into a salon asking for color, and they flap their elbows and cluck, “Oh goody, we never get to do color!”
It’s a funny joke, but how true is it? Compared with women in other cities, are Seattle women more likely to stay gray after they go gray?
As it turns out, Bernadette may be on to something. Data from Experian Marketing Services show that, out of the 31 U.S. metropolitan areas with at least 1 million women, Seattle is one of just three that ranks in the bottom 10 for both home and professional hair coloring. Seattle women rank 25th for use of home-coloring products and 24th for professional coloring or highlighting. The other two metro areas that rank in the bottom 10 for both are Charlotte, N.C., and Baltimore, Md. Just one place ranks in the top 10 for both hair-dye categories — Miami.
So maybe there is some truth about Seattle women not coloring their hair. But shouldn’t that be a point of pride? After all, it takes some confidence to not try to hide your age. And gray or not, most mature women in Seattle do feel good about how they look. In national surveys conducted by market data firm Scarborough Research, 71.9 percent of women over age 40 in Seattle said they were “somewhat or mostly content” with their appearance. Out of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the country, that ranks Seattle women third for feeling good about their appearance.
Take that, Bernadette!