Colors of fall: Blonde heads and dyed tips

by Levin Brenner and Clare Tourtelotte, Sports Contributor and Sports Editor
photos by Reese Pinto and Aidan Lieberman

Every fall around mid-October, you may notice a herd of cross country boys with bleached blonde locks in the hallways.

Rumor has it that the origin of the hair bleaching tradition was to be spotted while running in the dark during Twilight, an annual night invitational meet on Cape Cod that both the girls and boys cross country teams competed at for years. 

“It’s a race in the dark and the tradition is that if your hair was bleached, you could be spotted running in the dark,” junior Alon Mileguir said. 

Like the boys cross country team, the girls cross country and girls varsity soccer teams also dye their hair every year towards the end of the season. This year, the cross country teams are not going to Twilight, so they dyed their hair for the Oct. 28 Dual County League meet.

Rather than their whole heads, the girls cross country team dyes the tips of their hair bright pink. Senior Emily Savage said the tradition builds community among the team. 

“We look cohesive and built like a team, and when we run it’s empowering to be pink and to all run together as pink-haired people,” she said. 

This inclusive aspect of the tradition drew Oona Helenius, senior captain of girls cross country, into the sport, even before entering high school.

“My favorite memory was actually from before I was a freshman. I was in eighth grade, and I went to the team dinner to watch my brother’s [hair] get bleached. The seniors on the team asked if I also wanted to get dyed, too,” she said. “I felt like a part of the team even before I went to South, and that really shows everyone’s commitment to making sure everyone feels included.”

The hair dyeing extends beyond the cross country teams; like the girls cross country team, all members of the girls varsity soccer team are invited to dye their tips blue in early November for the playoffs, senior Nicole Tandetnitskiy said. 

“We dye our hair for state playoffs, and it’s a fun tradition so we all look united and spirited during the game,” she said. “It’s special just for state playoffs: we only dye it if we make it.”

Maddy Genser, senior captain of the girls soccer team, said that hair dyeing unites the team by pushing everyone past their boundaries.

“We’re all doing something together that might put us out of our comfort zone, but we do it because we’re all doing it together,” she said.

In contrast to the girls’ tradition, where every member of the team is able to dye their hair no matter their ability, the boys bleaching tradition is reserved for just the top seven varsity runners. 

Senior captain Ben Pistiner said that the exclusive and long-lived tradition has driven him to work harder. 

“I first bleached my hair in my junior year. Seeing the varsity guys with bleached hair motivated me to train harder in the offseason with the hopes of making varsity,” he said. 

Hair dyeing serves as a reminder of the strong community that exists in South sports, and while the iconic dyed tips for the girls teams don’t cause a jump scare, the boys’ yellow heads always act as a great way to surprise people, especially for Halloween, Mileguir said. 

Tandetnitskiy said that dyeing their tips builds community in a way that is separate from the sport.

“It brings us closer because we all do something that’s fun and not soccer related,” she said. “Soccer can be intense on the field, so it’s a nice step off the field.”