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BY DESIGN : Dyeing for a New Look

March 23, 1995|DENISE HAMILTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

These guys are tired of basic black, especially when it comes to their hair.

For many Asian Americans, tinting is today's hip statement. "Everybody's doing it," says Alan Lin, 24, of Arcadia, who turned his black hair a glossy chestnut three months ago. "It's fashionable. It's unique. It makes me stand out."

The young and the tinted hang out in the San Gabriel Valley's hot nightspots, such as St. Honore's Cafe in Monterey Park or Good Time Cafe in the mammoth San Gabriel Shopping Center.

No one seems to know exactly where the trend started. Some say it has roots in the punk scene of the 1970s. Others say it began in Japan and Hong Kong, where stylish young men favor red- and brown-tinted hair. The look has spread to southern China, where young entrepreneurs in the booming port cities can be seen with reddened locks.

Whatever its origins, the tinting craze quickly swept across the Pacific Rim, engulfing Los Angeles. Colors of choice include brown and red, with the occasional blond tints.

The Basco Brothers, an L.A. hip-hop music group of five siblings with Filipino heritage, recently dyed their hair blond, says Amy Tu, fashion editor of Los Angeles-based Yolk magazine, adding that club kids have embraced the look.

Variations range from streaking only a few strands around the face to tinting the crown to hennaing the entire head of hair.

"It's not as different as blue or purple, but it's a fashion statement," says Johnson Wang, 16, of Arcadia, whose family is from Taiwan. "My parents almost killed me. They didn't want me to look different. But a lot of people are doing it."

Many area hair salons now offer hair tinting for men. Jess Lee, owner of J Hair and Beauty on Valley Boulevard in San Gabriel, charges $18. He says about 20% of his young male customers request tints as well as cuts.

Some opt for over-the-counter treatments. Jack Lin, 22, of Rowland Heights, says his girlfriend helped him do his brown-tinted bangs, which he wears parted down the center.

But Alan Lin (no relation) decided to do it himself. "I used Nice & Easy, and it was nice and easy," he says, running his hands through his uniformly brown hair to reveal a small earring.

"My parents were open-minded about dyeing my hair. That was OK. But when it came to the earring, that was a different story. They're kind of conservative."

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