SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Pharmacies and beauty stores across Puerto Rico are running out of hair dye as a growing number of men go blond in support of the island's baseball players who bleached their hair as a bonding ritual ahead of the World Baseball Classic.
What began as a joke among team members playing in California has spread across the island in a trend that spiked Tuesday just hours after Puerto Rico beat the Netherlands in 11 innings to reach the championship game undefeated in the tournament, which is held every four years. Puerto Rico will play Wednesday in the final against the winner of Tuesday night's game between the United States and Japan.
"Ever since they began winning, this has not stopped," said Myrna Rios, a manager at a Sally Beauty Supply store in the capital of San Juan. "We have run out of the product in most of our stores."
Copper blond, platinum blond, golden blond — all shades of blond (even burnt orange) are turning heads in a U.S. territory where the majority of men have thick, dark hair and are now getting teased about looking like Ken dolls. Those who are bald have opted to dye their beards or goatees in a nod to Puerto Rico coach Carlos Delgado.
"We have been able to unite our country with our blond hair," said star Carlos Correa, who hit a two-run homer and scored the winning run against the Netherlands. "That's what we want as players to unite our country, our people, and give them the best."
Men ranging from news anchors to university students to professionals have embraced a trend that has sparked the rallying cry of "Team Rubio!" or "Team Blond" in Spanish.
Among them is civil engineer Christian Rodriguez, who dyed his beard Saturday after visiting four different pharmacies to find the product he needed. At first, he didn't dye his hair as well because he thought it would be too much at church on Sunday. But he noticed six male churchgoers had dyed their hair blond and decided to take the plunge Tuesday, calling a hair stylist friend to help him go platinum.
Rodriguez complained of an intense burning sensation during the two-hour process and sent pictures to his wife, who responded with the emoticon of a monkey with its eyes covered.
"Anything for my island!" he said as he lifted his arm to cheer the team.
Rodriguez then sent a picture of his dyed hair to his mechanic, who responded with a selfie taken underneath a car of him smiling with a bleached beard.
Puerto Rico's undefeated run to the championship has boosted the spirit of an island mired in a decade-long recession that faces a rocky recovery amid looming austerity measures for its government. Even young students have been sporting blond do's, prompting public schools to suspend them until the island's education secretary stepped in and said in a letter made public Tuesday that they should be allowed to dye their hair during the tournament.
"We wanted to do this to unite the team, and then the people of Puerto Rico, they started dying their hair, too," pitcher Edwin Diaz said. "I saw that there were some students that were suspended from school. I think they shouldn't be doing that because it just means that we have united our nation. We didn't think it was going to be this huge, but we were able to accomplish that."
Puerto Ricans are not the only ones going blond. A large number of Dominicans who lost bets to their Puerto Rican friends after their team was defeated are declaring their solidarity to their fellow Caribbean natives by seeking hair dye as well, Rios said.
"A whole bunch of them have come through," she said with a laugh. "This has united the island."