Vanity Fair (June 8 issue) carries an article under the title, “Larry David wasn’t nominated but he stole the 2015 Tonys anyway.” It starts with the following passage:

“It was a long and high-octave Tony Awards, filled with desperate pleas to get non-white-haired audiences to shell out a few hundred for theater tickets. Like most awards shows, you get to that point where you give up and look forward to the recaps tomorrow to narrow down the high points for you, which is why we’re here, with the good and the disappointing from the 69th Tony Awards.” - http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2015/06/tony-awards-best-moments-larry-david-kelli-ohara?

What does “non-white haired audiences" mean? Does it mean literally the young sector of audiences, though it sounds like a too round-about wording to me?

  • 3
    Vanity Fair seems to comment on how it is normal for younger generation to wait for reruns and uploaded versions of the awards rather than watching it live. It does not mean however that VF implies that TA in unwelcoming towards younger audience. TA is just struggling to find a way for younger audience to watch the show live.
    – gelolopez
    Jun 8, 2015 at 22:20
  • 6
    Yes, 'white-haired' is an easily recognizable figure of speech for 'old people'. It's not that the Tony awards are explicitly unwelcoming to the younger set, but that the high prices will tend to discourage more economical people who tend to be younger.
    – Mitch
    Jun 8, 2015 at 23:29

1 Answer 1


The expression “non-white-haired” means young.

The author of the article was trying to show-off by using a simile, idiom or something ... but the end result sounds quite clumsy. It's worth noting that it's more common to write “silver-haired” when (perhaps humorously) referring to the elderly demographic.

Note that the word “set” (basically meaning crowd or group) is often used idiomatically in such a sentence, again in an attempt at mild humour by article writers:

"I want to find an App that is not targeted at the pre-pubescent set!"

"The Tonies are finally aiming at an audience other than the nursing home set!"

Note that using a "non-" in combination with a humorous or extreme thing, generally, is one of these ‘tricks’ that magazine writers think adds to their writing. A kind of sarcasm. So you'll often see things like: “Finally, a sports car for the non-billionaire set!” or “At last, an app that can be used by non-PhDs!”

1) It's one of these supposedly humorous uses of "non-"

2) Silver-haired means ‘old folks’. For me the "white" is basically a typo, if I were the editor I would just change it with no comment to silver-haired

3) Note that typically "set" is used when referring, perhaps humorously, to a demographic - often used with a sarcastic object thing before the "set". ("this beer is so cheap it's only for the 'Animal House' set!" "This song will only sell to the Neil Sedaka set!")

4) One final point on silver-hairs. Much older women are sometimes referred to as the “blue-rinse set” .

Just BTW, you see how I'm criticising the writer in question as "trying to be funny". The passage is packed with stuff like that. For example, “high-octave” is a clever play on high-octane {assuming it's not just a typo}. So, that's the deal.

  • Although I don't think saying "non-silver-haired audiences" sounds any better.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 9, 2015 at 5:38
  • 1
    Right. The whole tenor of my answer is that it is "really poorly written". For example, notice the second paragraph "The author of the article was trying to show-off by using a simile, idiom or something ... but the end result sounds quite clumsy."
    – Fattie
    Jun 9, 2015 at 7:17

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.