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White streaks in the hair did not just become a thing; these strange features have been associated with some characters in mythology, fiction, pop culture, and real life.
The naturally occurring cases of white streaks in the hair are caused by a medical condition known as poliosis circumscripta or simply poliosis. Poliosis is just the absence of melanin or melanocytes in the hair; people with poliosis usually have healthy lives unless the condition itself is caused by another disease. Not to be confused with poliomyelitis or polio, which happens to be a crippling and potentially fatal disease caused by the poliovirus.
The Mallen streak
Poliosis is most popularly known by the name Mallen streak. In the 1970s, the term “Mallen streak” became popular.
It was initially used by a novelist called Catherine Cookson in her “Mallen trilogy” and was derived from the Latin word “malignus,” which means “bad sort.” In fiction, it is linked with witches, outcast ladies, and comic book villains, like Rogue in the X Men or the Bride of Frankenstein. The novels cover the lives of a cursed family, all of whom have inherited a grey streak in their hair.
This origin led to a negative stereotype attached to people with white streaks in their hair. However, it gained acceptance in pop culture for that exact reason.
Society previously used these white streaks (also known as patches or spots) to identify the wearers as evil, cursed, or otherwise “different.” People nowadays pay to have them professionally added in, bleach them at home, and embrace the streak as something extraordinary that the body does from time to time.
People and characters known with the white streak
Some individuals are famous for having white streaks across history, folklore, fiction, pop culture, and even real life. Some of them are:
- Marie Antoinette is perhaps the most well-known historical example of hair becoming white as a result of stress. The abrupt whitening of scalp hair characterizes the condition known as Marie Antoinette syndrome. The name is a reference to France’s unhappy Queen Marie Antoinette (1755-1793), whose hair reputedly went white the night before her final walk to her execution by guillotine at the time of the French Revolution.
- Rogue is still one of the most recognizable faces (and hairstyles) of the numerous X-Men team rosters, well known for her mutant talents to siphon the thoughts and powers of any mutant with whom she comes into contact. The X-Men film franchise featured Anna Paquin’s character, who gained the white streak in her hair after absorbing Wolverine’s healing abilities to save her own life. Originally, Rogue was not a wayward figure led astray by the crafty and unpredictable Mystique. In reality, she was a very evil villain who proved to be a formidable adversary to the X-Men before later joining them.
- Richard Madden: A celebrity with a Mallen streak is Richard Madden. He is well-known for his roles in the television dramas Game of Thrones and Bodyguard. Because of the roles he plays, he frequently dyes his hair. However, he embraces his natural side outside of acting and claims that he is not ashamed of it. Madden’s streak is barely visible in one of his most recent roles as Ikaris in a Marvel movie, The Eternals.
- Cruella de Vil: The popular character from the Disney animation 101 Dalmatians is an obvious villain with a Mallen streak. Her hair is a mix of white and black. Estella is a youthful and cunning thief seeking to create a name for herself within the fashion industry in a recent movie titled Cruella. She quickly finds a pair of criminals who admire her penchant for shenanigans, and together they make a life on London’s streets. When Estella befriends fashion icon Baroness von Hellman, she explores her bad side and transforms into the boisterous and revenge-driven Cruella.
- Percy Jackson and Annabeth Chase: Percy Jackson and Annabeth Chase are other instances of characters who acquire a Mallen streak as a result of tragic events in the series of novels Percy Jackson and the Olympians. In The Titian’s Curse, their streaks form after they are put under tremendous stress by holding up the sky.
Mallen streaks in the creative industry
Mallen streaks have become a popular color trend in the last year. It is a must-have in salons and on celebrities, whether customers want to add a little spice to their natural hue or experiment with color on a blonde.
Music star Billie Eilish is known to have experimented with the Mallen streak on her hair several times to the delight of her fans, who tend to copy the style from her.
Tony Haresign’s ‘Mallen Madness collection also includes a grey/white streak. According to the owner of Esquire Barbershop, his collection was inspired by sports presenters from the 1970s, Catherine Cookson, Batman, and Film Noir. He was determined to include a Mallen streak in the collection to highlight how eye-catching the grey or white streak can be.
Mallen streak as a symbol
Cookson’s novel series did not give rise to the negative associations associated with the Mallen streak. It did, however, illustrate how the medical hair condition was perceived previously. Characters or individuals with the Mallen streak, in particular, were linked with gloom or even villainy. Poliosis became associated with evil during the medieval period. It was thought to be a witch’s mark back then, a body trait that European witch-hunters assumed marked a person’s (mainly women’s) affiliation with the devil. However, the notoriety of the Mallen streak has begun to fade and has become linked with alternative fashion.
It is clear that only a few people were born with the Mallen streak. While some people see the artificial practice as appropriation, others consider it a great sign of acceptance. Although the Mallen streak has long been associated with negativity, it is now becoming more recognized in pop culture and the creative sector. People are more inclined to appreciate looks that stray from the norm now that society’s views are not so black-and-white.