The so-called Mallen streak, once covered up and concealed, is now being embraced by popular culture and clients who are embracing their natural grey hair. Actor Richard Madden (pictured), often sports his natural white/grey streak with pride, and HJ is here for it!
What is a 'Mallen streak'?
A white/grey streak is known as a Mallen streak and it's an example of poliosis – which in short means an absence of melanin in the hair, which results in the trademark white streak. The term ‘Mallen streak’ came into common parlance in the 1970s. However throughout history, the streak has become synonymous with evil – think X Men’s Rogue or the Bride of Frankenstein. Originally coming from the Latin word ‘malignus’ (meaning 'bad kind') it was first used by novelist Catherine Cookson in her ‘Mallen’ trilogy. The novels follow the lives of a doomed family, who all share the hereditary white/grey streak in their hair. Cookson writes of the pejorative associations of the streak, “nothing good ever came of a Mallen.”
But thankfully times are changing when it comes to Mallen streaks...
Embracing 'Mallen streaks'
Hopefully attitudes are changing as figures in the public eye now wear their streaks with pride. We spoke to the hairdressing industry to find out about their experiences with Mallen streaks and what they would advise clients to do with theirs.
"Personally, I would always encourage a client to embrace a streak and work with it as a feature," says Paul Dennison, colour director at Ken Picton. "It’s incredibly unique and striking and if you cover it, you’ll constantly be fighting the regrowth and trying to cover it up." Other notable celebrities with a natural Mallen streak include politician Ed Milliband, TV presenter George Lamb and author Caitlin Moran. Some celebrities are even jumping on the Mallen bandwagon and getting white streaks put into their hair, like Drag Race's Michelle Visage. Note that Mallen streaks can often veer into money piece territory, check out our favourite Gen Z looks here.
Paul Dennison is a fan of the look (natural or otherwise) and has some pro tips on working with a Mallen streak as a colourist. "It’s a very strong look and because white hair is so clean, it can look really dramatic when sitting next to darker, natural hair," he says. "I’d aim to enhance this strikingness by covering any other greys, so that the front section becomes even more apparent and really stands out. If a client has covered their white hair previously and wants to grow it out and embrace it, I suggest you pre-lighten the ends as much as possible, then tone to the natural colour with a nice ash or clean blonde."
'Mallen' streaks in Collections
A grey/white streak has also featured in Tony Haresign's 'Mallen Madness' collection. The owner of Esquire Barbershop says of the inspiration behind his collection: “My influences for this collection included 1970s sports presenters, Batman, Catherine Cookson and Film Noir. I was keen to include a Mallen streak in the collection to highlight how striking the grey/white streak can look.”