Synonymous in fiction with witches, outsider women and comic book baddies (i.e. all the best people), the Mallen streak is a panel of white hair, formed naturally by poliosis; the absence of melanin. Although it’s nothing new, the feature only found its name in the 70s – named after the characters in a Catherine Cookson romance novel.
The Mallen trilogy follows the lives of the eponymous family, headed by all-round bad boy, Thomas. He fathers numerous illegitimate children, all of whom inherit his distinct white streak and go on to face general doom and disaster. That’s some strong hair genes. Mallen itself comes from the Latin ‘malignus’, meaning wicked – damn, those characters were doomed from the start.
Like many commonly-occurring physical traits, these white streaks (also sometimes patches or spots) once marked their wearers as evil, cursed or generally ‘other’. These days, people pay to get them added in professionally, bleach them at home, and generally accept the streak as just another cool thing the body sometimes does.