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Dye or Die

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"Blonde hair is not allowed in the realm! King Tyrannus commands it!"

"All those prisoners with white hair, step forward. You are certain to have rebelled in 1848. You will be shot."
General Gaston Alexandre Auguste de Gallifet, to the prisoners of the Paris Commune of 1871

Nice, distinctive hair you have there, Mx. Hero! But sadly, it's going to be a problem for you. Perhaps you find yourself in the midst of a Stern Chase, dodging trouble from the Space Mafia or close to getting your secret agent cover blown. You have a choice: Dye or Die.

So, you have to dye your hair as a disguise. Bye-bye, blonde highlights.

Men will also have to shave their mustache or beard, if they have one. Maybe grow one if they don't.

Compare Important Haircut; Expository Hairstyle Change; Wig, Dress, Accent (without the wig, the dress, or the accent); Kaleidoscope Hair (if it happens many times); and Clark Kenting.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Jinto makes Lafiel dye black the blue hair that marks her as an Abh in order to avoid notice by the invading United Mankind in Crest of the Stars.
  • Eureka has to do this in Eureka Seven AO so she and her son can avoid discrimination from the islanders and attention from foreign governments.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist (2003), Ed dyes his (long blond) hair brown, and wears stilts and a hat in order to disguise himself.
  • Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms: Maquia does this to hide her characteristic Iorph blonde hair. The color she chooses is identical to that of her adopted ordinary human son.
  • In Negima! Magister Negi Magi, Setsuna, after being exiled from the crow demon tribe for being a white-feathered half-demon, has a complex about her implied natural appearance. As a result, she hates revealing her white wings, dyes her hair black, and wears contacts.
  • A more lighthearted example in the Pokémon the Series: Black & White episode "Baffling the Bouffalant", in which Ash, Iris, and Cilan come to an area where the local Ungulates attack anyone not sporting an afro like their own. In order to pass through safely, the area's Nurse Joy started wearing an afro wig and brought more for any travelers and their Pokémon.
  • In Sword of the Stranger, Nanashi aka Nameless in the literal sense, dyes his red hair black to avoid trouble. Seems like the residents in feudal times hated foreigners.
  • Yoko in The Twelve Kingdoms spends a pretty good part of the first arc with her distinctive bright red hair (which had changed color when she arrived in the Kingdoms) dyed a much less obvious shade of brown to help throw off pursuit.

    Comic Books 
  • The Flash: In The Silver Age of Comic Books, when Wally West got his second Kid Flash costume, which exposed his hair, he used "instant hair dye" (which was included in his costume ring... somehow) so it would appear that Kid Flash had brown hair. At some point in the New Teen Titans era, he started being shown as a redhead in costume, and subsequent flashbacks to the early days haven't included the dye.
  • Green Arrow shaved his hair and beard during Mike Grell's "Black Arrow" arc.
  • Iron Man: In the "Execute Program" story arc from Iron Man 2004, Tony Stark shaves off his beard and dyed his hair blond while on the run. It works, as no one recognizes him, but he feels he looks like "an idiot".
  • Omaha the Cat Dancer: The title character bleaches her hair blond before fleeing Mipple City after she and Chuck had a severe falling out. Eventually, she decides to return and goes to her favorite hairstylist to put her hair back to normal. That proves a very unpleasant experience even as the stylist makes her opinion clear that Omaha shouldn't have abused her hair like she did, in other words, "Next time you get an idea about your hair? Call for a second opinion, Okay?"
  • Persepolis: In a Real Life example, the author's mother bleaches her hair in order to hide from the government, after a photo of her at an anti-government rally becomes famous.
  • Supergirl: Kara used a "Kryptonian comb" in her second solo series, which allowed her to comb the brunette into her hair as well as comb in blond locks and serious curls when she did the reverse motions.
  • Superman & Batman: Generations: As the series operates on real time rather than Comic-Book Time, in one of the later chapters Superman started using makeup and dyeing grey into his hair as Clark Kent to present a plausibly aged appearance.
  • Swordquest: The foster parents of the protagonists dye their naturally bright blonde hair a medium brown so the Big Bad would not suspect them while they were growing up.
  • Watchmen: Done by The Silk Spectre II and Nite Owl II, when they assume new identities at the end, having allowed everyone to assume they died in the Big Bad's attack on New York City. They both dye their hair blond. Also, Nite Owl II grows a mustache and Silk Spectre II cuts her hair.
  • Why I Hate Saturn: . Played for laughs, as brunettes Anne and Laura are on the run from Laura's ex-boyfriend, and they dye their hair blonde so they won't be recognized. However, when he finds them anyway, they run again, and Laura decides to return her hair to its original color — only she messes up and it comes out green!
  • X Deaths of Wolverine: Moira MacTaggart goes on the run after being betrayed by Mystique. The CIA try to capture her, so she cuts her shoulder-length brown hair into a blonde crop as a disguise.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In Franz Xaver von Schönwerth's "King Goldenlocks", the titular prince flees his country after being condemned to death. During his exile, Goldenlocks covers his head with a cloth to hide his distinctive hair color.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Discworld of A.A. Pessimal, a news reporter from Rimwards Howondaland is in search of a scoop and has to — very illegally and on pain of death if discovered — enter the Black Howondalandian country next door which is perpetually at war with her own. She hits on the idea of becoming a Sto Kerrigian for the trip and gets a fake ID. As her face is well-known, she tries to evade detection by dying her hair black, as opposed to her natural blonde. Her hostess sees through this straight away and notes a black hair dye on a blonde is as obvious as Hell. Fortunately the hostess is amused rather than angry, knows her through mutual friends, and keeps her secret.
  • In BlazBlue Alternative: Remnant, Penny keeps her blonde hair dyed orange to hide her true identity as a Murakumo and to keep hidden from her creators.
  • Extra Life has Chiaki wearing a black wig while under the fake identity of "Keiko Watanabe", to cover up her distinctive pink hair and lessen the risk of someone recognizing the supposedly-dead Ultimate Gamer.
  • Four Deadly Secrets: Ruby and Miltia dye their hair when they go scouting out Junior's bar.
  • In "NGE: Runaways" Shinji and Asuka are running from NERV. Shinji dyes his hair blonde to hide his identity. He tried to talk Asuka into getting her hair dyed too, but she refused, choosing to cover her head instead.
  • The One I Love Is...: After the Final Battle Rei dyes her hair brown (and wears contact lenses) so nobody knows Rei Ayanami is still alive.
  • Second American Civil War: In Home of the Brave, Isabella bleaches and dyes her black hair to honey blonde, cuts it shorter, adds fake glasses, and uses makeup to lighten her skin while on the run from American forces.
  • Superwomen of Eva 2: Lone Heir of Krypton: Asuka wears a blond wing as both Power Girl and Supergirl to prevent someone from figuring out who she is.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Supergirl crossover The Vampire of Steel, Kara Zor-El dyes her hair red while in Sunnydale to protect her secret identity.
  • Inverted in Yellow Immortality: the only way for Fluttershy to escape Carcosa General Hospital and its curse of eternal life is to change her fur color, meaning she has to dye in order to die.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Avengers: Infinity War sees Black Widow dye her red hair a platinum blonde, and brunette Wanda going from brunette to auburn red, due to both being on the run due to their parts in Captain America: Civil War.
  • The Lifetime movie Black & Blue. Gracie flees her abusive husband and is advised to cut her hair — because it's too conspicuous.
  • Marie of The Bourne Identity has to cut and dye her hair a dark brown. In this case, it's because her initial hair color is a little more distinctive. There's a Call-Back to this in The Bourne Ultimatum when Nicky has to do the same.
  • In Breakout Jocelyn cuts her blonde hair to shoulder-length and darkens it to brown after she has fled from her abusive husband.
  • In Cruella, the 12-year-old Estella decides to dye her distinctive black and white hair one color to make it easier for her to live as a runaway in London.
  • After helping the Marquis of Tewkesbury escape from an assassin in Enola Holmes, Enola guesses that his shoulder-length hair will need to be cut short to disguise him. She's proved right when sketches of him in the papers have his long hair, and he's able to stay hidden with the short haircut. Enola herself doesn't need to, as she can easily put her hair under a hat and wear boys clothes as a disguise, and then switch back to girls' clothes when it suits her.
  • In Elektra Abby is told to do this while on the run from The Hand. She dyes her hair brown and cuts a fringe to resemble Elektra. Oddly enough Mark and Elektra don't do this — and they're still found pretty soon too.
  • In Following Bill gets paranoid about being recognized by someone whose house he robbed. Cobb then convinces him to shave, cut his hair short, and don a different wardrobe. Of course this bites Bill in the ass when Cobb frames him for everything.
  • Firestorm: Shaye dyes his distinctive pale hair black as part of his Dead Person Impersonation so he can join the prison fire crew and escape.
  • The Fugitive: After escaping police custody, Dr. Richard Kimble shaves his beard and dyes his gray hair brown.
  • Agent 99 in the 2008 Get Smart movie — but her dye job is incidental next to the extensive plastic surgery she undergoes to keep her job as a secret agent.
  • Hiding Out: Andrew dyes a streak of blonde into each side of his head as part of his disguise as a high school student.
  • Imperium has FBI agent Nate Foster shaving his head to go undercover in a Neo-Nazi group.
  • Inglorious Basterds implies this. Shoshanna Dreyfuss is only seen briefly at the start but she appears to be a brunette. When she's living under a fake identity in Paris years later, her hair is blonde (and with visible roots to suggest it is dyed). Possibly as an attempt to look less Jewish and more Aryan — as she is hiding from the Nazis.
  • Lockout. Emilie ends up the only woman in the midst of a prison riot. Snow dyes her hair with coffee, motor oil, and other nasty stuff. Oh and a punch to the face to make her look more masculine.
  • Inverted in The Long Kiss Goodnight where the lead's usual hair is dyed blonde during her time as an assassin. When she loses her memory, she lets her natural auburn hair grow out. The CIA is still able to recognize her on video, despite a drastically different style of clothing as well.
  • At the end of Midnight Special, Sarah is seen cutting and preparing to dye her hair to hide from the government.
  • Similarly, in Safe Haven, the heroine cuts and dyes her hair (from blonde to brunette in the book, from brunette to blonde in the movie) to disguise her appearance before fleeing her abusive husband.
  • Done by Evelyn Salt in the movie Salt. She dyes her blonde hair brown. And at the end disguises herself as a man to sneak into the White House.
  • Played with in Shadowboxer. Vickie's hair is cut while she's on the run but she wears a blonde wig instead of dyeing. And after a few years have passed, she stops wearing the wig and her hair has grown back.
  • Nancy Callahan changes from blonde to brunette (but still dances at the same strip club under her own name) between Sin City and the sequel.
  • Julia Roberts' character in Sleeping with the Enemy plays with this. Although she cuts her hair after faking her death, it's presented more as an Important Haircut and she doesn't look that much different afterwards. She wears a wig when travelling to her new town too.
  • In Species, after faking her death in a car crash with one of her own severed thumbs Sil cuts her long blonde hair shorter and dyes it black to hide from the scientists who are hunting her.
  • Attempted by a cavewoman mother in When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth with tar, as that tribe had a tradition of sacrificing blondes to the sun.
  • In Dutch WW2 drama Zwartboek, AKA Black Book, in order to spy on the Nazis, the Jewish main character Racheal had to dye her brown hair blond, and not just the hair on her head (since this is a Paul Verhoeven film, guess which part was shown).
  • Inverted in The Boondock Saints II: All Saint's Day. On deciding to return to the Boston to continue fighting the Mafia, Murphy and Connor shave off their long beards and cut their hair down to its usual length, which both of them note afterwards wasn't very smart, since now they look just like their Wanted posters again.

  • Sharrow in Iain M. Banks's Against a Dark Background goes so far as to shave her head in an attempt to throw off her pursuers.
  • In The Avengers by Rich Cohen, a book about a band of Jewish guerillas who fought against the Nazis during WWII (not about Marvel superheroes), a female member of the band dyes her dark hair blond to appear less Jewish. It isn't completely successful as the dark roots of her hair are still visible through the blond dye which at least one Nazi officer notices, though she manages to get away from him in time.
  • In The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong, Chloe's blonde-with-red-streaks hair is recognized by a bystander, and so she is forced to dye it black. Since she's a sheltered fifteen-year-old and the new color looks atrocious, this is very upsetting to her.
  • Shannon Hale's Books of Bayern: Used by Ani (Isi) in The Goose Girl. Since only her countrymen (read: the traitors that want to KILL her) have blond hair, she tries to dye her butt-length yellow locks. Subverted in that she can't find enough brown dye, as it's uncommon in Bayern, and settles for wearing a scarf and only dying her eyebrows.
  • Princess Halley, aka Cira of A Brother's Price, is a Significant Green-Eyed Redhead who dyes her hair black so people won't realize that she's part of the royal family.
    • There is also the adopted child whose hair is dyed in order to blend in better.
  • In order to hide their naturally blonde hair, Kaunians in Harry Turtledove's Darkness Series start doing this. When the Algarvians discover this thanks to Officer Bembo, they start randomly, and rather invasively, checking people for blonde roots on any of their hairs, with offenders being dragged off to control camps. Vanai manages to augment the dye job with a simple illusion spell to grant her a Forthwegian appearance, allowing her to marry Ealstan.
  • In Dragon and Phoenix, Maurynna has to dye her hair and skin to traverse part of Jehangalan without drawing attention to the fact that her ethnicity isn't represented there at all. Her friend Raven wants to do the same, but the dyes would not work well on his brilliantly red hair or his pale, freckled skin.
  • Downplayed in The Famous Five book Five Get Into Trouble. When Richard is in danger of being seen by his arch-enemy Rooky, Julian tells him to rub soot over his yellow hair, to blacken it. At first, Rooky is fooled; but a bit later, he demands to have another look, and recognises Richard after all.
  • Gentleman Bastard: In The Republic of Thieves, we find out what the Jeremites do to redheaded girls. It's bad enough that even the Thiefmaker is appalled by it… and makes darn sure that Sabetha always dyes and covers her red hair.
  • Gods and Warriors: While helping Hylas escape from the Crows in The Outsiders, Telamon gives him walnut juice to conceal his yellow hair.
  • In The Guns of Navarone, Dusty Miller and Andy Stevens both have their hair dyed black so that they can pass for Greek fishermen, instead of the saboteurs they actually are. After the scene on the cliff, Captain Mallory notices that the rain is starting to wash the dye out of Stevens' hair, and is furious because their superiors supplied them with low-quality dye, which could cost a man his life if they were discovered. This was somewhat of a moot point, since Stevens was already half-dead from falling into a ravine, and they could no longer have passed for fishermen at this stage in the plan anyway.
  • The protagonists of The Healing Wars cut and dye their hair to avoid being recognised after they're declared wanted criminals. Aylin in particular dyes her red hair black in order to pass for Baseeri (the occupying force). Later in the series, when the characters travel to Baseer, they all dye their hair black and Nya uses a false braid made of Aylin's cut-off hair as further disguise.
  • Somewhat like the Polgara example below, it's mentioned a time or two in the Heralds of Valdemar stories that Companions can't be dyed — or rather, the dye job never lasts long enough to do much good.
  • Lorien Legacies: In I Am Number Four, Number 4/John Smith bleaches his dark hair blond when he has to move cities (ironically inverted in the film where he is played by the naturally blond Alex Pettyfer). He has to do it again in the next book The Power of Six when he actually is on the run from the law. He and Sam are forced to shave their heads. Number Six doesn't have to do this since she has the power of invisibility.
  • Zakath grows a beard as part of not being recognized in The Malloreon. Belgarath dyes Garion's sandy blond hair dark brown for the trek across Morindimland. Polgara has tried dying her hair in the past to hide, but her skunk stripe always comes back and makes it impossible.
    • Reversed nicely at one point in the prequel novels. Dye won't adhere to Polgara's white lock, and she's trying to be undercover. So Belgarath (in his wandering storyteller disguise) starts telling ladies across the western kingdoms that the latest fashion in hairdressing is dark hair with a dyed-white streak in it.
  • Maya's Notebook: In Las Vegas, Maya ends up dyeing her bleached hair black so as to go unnoticed by Brandon Leeman's mooks, who killed him and are looking for her. It leaves her with odd stains on her scalp that become visible much later, after she loses a bet and ends up shaving her head.
  • In the Holocaust-set novel Number the Stars, Peter has distinctive red hair and must keep a hat on it to avoid the Nazis from finding him.
  • Both Aiden and Meg Falconer in On the Run. Meg bleaches and cuts her dark hair, while Aiden dyes his blond hair brown.
  • In The Outsiders, Johnny cuts and dyes Ponyboy's hair blonde when they go on the run after Bob's death.
  • Rose Madder: Rose isn't trying to disguise herself when she impulsively dyes her brown hair to blonde, but the dye job does save her at least once from being recognized by her Ax-Crazy husband when he's hunting her in order to kill her for leaving him.
  • Subverted in The Silver Crown. Ellen is on the run, and Otto suggests that she cut her hair to look more like a boy and throw off the people who will be looking for a girl. As all they have is Otto's pen knife, Ellen refuses.
  • Various characters in A Song of Ice and Fire, as Westerosi families are pretty well Colour-Coded for Your Convenience.
    • Sansa has the distinctive auburn hair of the Tullys. So she dyes her hair a more normal mousy brown while disguised as 'Alayne Stone'.
    • Princess Myrcella has her distinctive Lannister hair dyed and her companion stands in for her while travelling to Dorne.
    • 'Young Griff' dyes his hair blue in memory of his Tyroshi mother. Or so he claims. It's later revealed to be in order to disguise the distinctive silver hair of (it's claimed) Aegon Targaryen.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • In I, Jedi Corran Horn dyes his hair and grows a goatee in order to attend Luke Skywalker's Jedi Academy without openly being a hero of the Rebellion and drawing too much attention. The dye, being special dye with a metabolizing agent, is initially misused, making him green-haired from head to toe, and he has to call his old Space Cop partner for help.
    • Isard's Revenge has Wedge Antilles donning a cyborg guise and growing out a beard in order to disguise his famous face while on The Infiltration.
    • The cyborg disguise is a Call-Back to Wedge's Gamble where he impersonates the same person when infiltrating Coruscant.
  • Tales of the Branion Realm: Kassandra DeMarian in The Painter Knight is a literal Fiery Redhead, hiding from assassins. Her hair is cut and dirtied brown, and her eyes are covered by a see-through cloth with the intent to make her appear blind.
  • Elizabeth does this in Tell No One after faking her death. Also owns a collection of wigs just to be safe. Her counterpart in the French film adaptation doesn't do this. Ironically it's the haircut that convinces her husband it's not an impostor when she tries to get back in contact — as he guesses that someone trying to fool him would try to make themselves look exactly as Elizabeth had when she apparently died.
  • In The Thief Lord, Hornet dyed Bo's angel-like blond hair black with ink to fool the detective that was searching for Bo and his brother.
  • The Wheel of Time: Nynaeve, Elayne, and Birgitte do this while attempting to travel across country incognito in one of the middle books. In Birgitte's case, it's particularly necessary as her blonde braid is one of her most well-known features and would instantly alert people to her identity.
  • In Where Are the Children?, Nancy has naturally red-gold hair (which her children Mike and Missy have inherited), but ever since coming out of prison seven years ago she's dyed her hair dark brown so she's less recognisable. Ray (her husband) considers asking Nancy to let the dye grow out and go back to her natural colour, but he knows Nancy doesn't feel secure enough for him to broach the subject. In the ending, Ray finally encourages to get her hair changed for her birthday, saying he thinks she'd look great as a redhead; it's implied she'll take him up on the offer given she no longer has to hide.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the eighth season premiere of Bones, when Brennan became a fugitive after being framed for murder, she uses peroxide on her hair to pass for blond as a disguise.
  • Doctor Who: In "The End of Time", the Master is assumed to have dyed his hair to avoid being recognized as the former Prime Minister. In reality, it turned white because his resurrection was screwed up.
  • Dr. Richard Kimble dyes his grey hair black in The Fugitive.
  • Game of Thrones. Sansa Stark has her distinctive red hair dyed black after fleeing Kings Landing. The dye is washed out when she enters an Arranged Marriage for political reasons, where it's important she is identified as one of the Starks.
  • Done in the TV adaptation of the Covert-One novel The Hades Factor, with the character in question (going from redhead to blonde) referred to as the "Killer Blonde version".
  • Used in Heroes, season one, "Five Years Gone". Claire's iconic blond locks have been dyed brown.
  • In the Highlander episode 'Methuselah's Gift', Amanda does this when she's being chased by mortals who want her crystal. She bleaches her dark hair white.
  • In Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger, Gaku Washio (GaoYellow) bleaches his hair to disguise himself because he's officially AWOL from the Japanese Air Force.
  • Inspector George Gently: In "Son of a Gun", Rachel has her long hair cut short to allow her to infiltrate the skinhead subculture (and wears a wig when she is in the police station).
  • Lost: One of Kate's flashbacks reveals she spent some time with her hair dyed blonde to hide from the federal agents hunting for her. Another set of flashbacks show her still a brunette but with a much shorter bob, which isn't quite as effective but the Marshall was being generous at the time.
  • Attempted by a suspect in NCIS. She walks right past Tony and Ziva thanks to a dye job, but they catch her after they find hair dye residue in the hotel room she had recently vacated.
  • Walker, Texas Ranger: Season 9's "Desperate Measures" follows two female inmates, Lara Pope and Jane "Hitch" Harrelson, who had escaped from a prison bus that was attacked by the boyfriends of two other inmates. Lara was falsely accused of murder by her ex-husband, Garrett, while Hitch was sentenced to life for killing three men. Seeking help from Lara's uncle Walt, the women change their hair color to avoid being recognized, with Lara going from blonde to redhead and Hitch from redhead to brunette. The dye and the new clothes were enough to fool Gagenote  and a State Troopernote , at least until Lara told Gage the truth when Hitch decided to kill them both, to which she is apprehended while Lara gets away. While the authorities were fooled for a while, it doesn't fool Garrett and his men when they find Lara reunited with her son, Griffin, at his school.
  • Implied in Wednesday. Laurel Gates is identified in family portraits by being blonde-haired, and when she turns up alive, it's as the red-haired Miss Thornhill, who presumably dyed it to properly conceal her identity as a member of the outcast-hating family in Jericho.
  • The Witcher: While on the run Ciri rubs dirt in her blonde hair to try and disguise its distinctive shade. It's not very effective, and mostly just makes her look dirty, and she very quickly stops doing it.

    Video Games 
  • In Mass Effect 3, you can meet former crewmember Kelly Chambers, now on the run. You have the option of convincing her to change her identity; if you do, she dyes her brown hair blond and changes her name. If you don't, she gets killed when Cerberus attacks the Citadel.
  • Max Payne shaves his head as a quickie disguise in Max Payne 3. He admits that it's kind of a stupid disguise, and he gets made fun of for it later.
  • Sonny Bonds needs to dye his hair as part of his undercover disguise in Police Quest 1: In Pursuit of the Death Angel.
  • Heather/Cheryl/Alessa, in Silent Hill 3, has her hair dyed blond as part of her disguise to avoid the titular town's cult. Her father probably does this from the time she's young, and she apparently continues doing it when she gets older. She is a teenager, however, so it might have been a style choice. In a meta sense, it also hides her identity from the player, since her natural black hair would make it pretty obvious who she really is.
  • In Detroit: Become Human, Kara changes her hair colour while on the run to help avoid being identified as the deviant android whose image is all over the news. The player gets a choice between black, brown, blonde, and platinum-white, all of which are flatter than her previous layered dark-honey-blonde, and Kara will sport that colour for the rest of the game.

  • In The Noordegraaf Files,Violet dyes her hair blonde after she is rescued from her kidnappers. Akila, who is telling this part of the story, quotes the trope name verbatim.
    "If you're on the run, it's an easy way to stay hidden. Dye or die, so to speak."

    Western Animation 


Video Example(s):


Death of the silver haired

Shouxue's mother dyes her hair black to help her hide her identity as a member of the Luan family. It saves her life.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / DyeOrDie

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