Red Hair Throughout Western History

Red, or ginger, hair has always been a bit of a fashion statement I think. It’s definitely something that stands out. Less than 2% of the population of the world has naturally ginger hair. I have naturally red hair and I stood out like a sore thumb. Neither my Mum or my Dad have red hair, they’re both dark, but my Aunt does and everyone used to think I was her daughter. You can’t really blame them.

10251938_10152058445532233_9110606542820563630_n
Me at about 4/5 years old!

Throughout my life, I have definitely felt the effects of being ginger. I’ve been verbally abused, bullied, beaten up and mocked for having red hair. This led me to change. I started dying my hair at twelve-years-old and only recently stopped. I’ve finally learned how to appreciate my hair and love it! Which I do. It’s a part of me and I consider it a major part of my identity. That’s how people treated me in school, so why wouldn’t I adopt that persona they gave to me? I love it now. But as a teenager it was hard.

Growing up as a redhead has opened my eyes to things. I went from being bullied and ridiculed for my hair to being sexualised because of it, almost overnight. That is a strange thing to go through. It hasn’t been awful, but attitudes towards my lovely hair have definitely changed. I think most redheaded women notice this change, men not so much. Ginger men are treated completely different than women, for sure. Women are seen as these sensual, fiery characters, men, not so much. The dynamics are definitely different, but as a woman, I cannot comment on the way the men and boys are treated.

Red hair is an evolution that people in North-Western Europe acquired after migrating. We have pale skin that causes us to be UV light-sensitive, so moving away from the sun and heat allowed our ancestors to evolve to be able to survive. We have a mutation in our genes that causes our red hair but also helps us. We also produce our own vitamin D, therefore, we don’t need to be out in the sun for as long, thus preventing damage to our skin. Redheaded people were often described as ‘uncivilised’ by ancient writers who had little understanding of our wonderful hair. Negative connotations have always followed red hair with people thought to be witches, vampires, and werewolves.

There are some notable natural redheads throughout history. Just like me, their red hair

queen-elizabeth-1-kings-and-queens-9843855-1500-1650
Queen Elizabeth I

is their identity. Queen Elizabeth I is probably one of the most famous redheads. Her hair was a fashion statement for her. Everyone wanted to be like her, a powerful leader and a powerful woman, who wouldn’t want to be like her? She was a trendsetter. The people of England weren’t royal, and not all were rich, therefore they couldn’t replicate her wealth and clothing, but the one thing they could replicate? Her hair. Elizabeth’s hair inspired a number of people to dye theirs that beautiful shade of auburn. It wasn’t really until Elizabeth that red hair was widely accepted.

Warrior Queen Boudicca is thought to have red hair, too. I’m not sure if she actually did or if people say she did because she was a fighter. It doesn’t matter though, I’m happy to have her on our side!

People, specifically women, with red hair are heavily portrayed in art. A lot of painters throughout history feature pale-skinned women with red hair as the focus of their art. Why are artists so fascinated with us? Was it because we stand out? Maybe. Red hair is a

venus
Sandro Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’ mid-1480’s

symbol that a woman is promiscuous, sensual, dangerous. Mary Magdaline is often portrayed as having red hair. Venus, the Roman Goddess of love, sex, beauty, and fertility has been painted with red hair, again trying to symbolise her sexuality and casting this negative connotation over us.

When you think about red hair in film and television, the women characters are often considered ‘wild’ and are over-sexualised. Jessica Rabbit for example. The way Jessica is animated, with her tiny waist, big breasts, sultry eyes, skimpy dress, and her perfect red hair furthers those thoughts that ginger women are fiery and seductresses. The media love to class us as ‘hot-tempered’ and ‘feisty’.  Well, yeah, we are because we have to deal with people that over-sexualise and attack us.

lucille-ball-9196958-3-402
Lucille Ball

I’d like to say being a redhead is getting easier, but that’d be a lie. We’re still being attacked as children in schools. Although I have found that the amount of people who are more appreciative and even jealous of us is growing. Ginger hair dye is the biggest selling colour which surprises me! It’s definitely getting more fashionable to be a ginger, with Lucille Ball famously dying her naturally blonde hair a bright shade of orange. When you have women like Nicole Kidman, Jessica Chastain, Emma Stone, Julianne Moore, Julia Roberts, Karen Gillan and Bryce Dallas Howard on our team I’d say we’re winning.

Lana.

 

4 thoughts on “Red Hair Throughout Western History

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s