Why having red hair is great
I have red hair. This makes me pretty unique as only 2% of the worlds population have red hair. More people dye their hair red than any other colour so it can't be that bad right? I'm part of an elite club that everyone wants to get into. Red-heads seem to be in fashion at the moment with a wave of ginger-pride sweeping the world.
I haven't always loved having red hair but now I have embraced my gingerness and am proud to celebrate my crown of titian locks.
Photo: International Redhead Day 2011 - InternationaleCC BY-SA 3.0, Eric Oaktree
My red headed childhood
When my mother was pregnant she said if she had a ginger baby she was sending it back. It was her worst fear, and wouldn't you know I popped out with a thatch of bright copper coloured locks.
Luckily she didn't send me back but having red hair is a feature which can change your life. How people treat you, speak to you and what they think of you will be different to how they would act towards people with more conventional shades of brown, black or blond.
As a small child I remember old ladies stopping my mum and telling her I had lovely strawberry blond hair and that I'd be popular with the boys when I grew up. Things must have been very different in the old ladies younger days as the last thing teenage boys were interested in when I was growing up was girls with red hair.
PHOTO: Wasn't I a cute carrot topped child!
School days for a red head can go two ways and shallow as children are it all depends on how you look. If other than the red hair you look the same as everyone else you got on ok. If you had any features which stood you out from the crowd then you would be a pariah. Overweight and red hair, spotty and red hair, very short or very tall and red hair, had a funny walk and red hair...... you had no hope.
Luckily I looked pretty normal and I remember only once being called ginger nut at school. Ironically the boy who called me it had redder hair than me.
Redhead Photography - Coffee table books celebrating red hair in all it's fiery glory!
What everyone thinks about red heads
And common misconceptions!
You've all heard about a red head having a fiery temper, A temper as hot as her hair, being hot headed. Well that's the myth, it isn't always true. A red head is no more likely to be short tempered than a person of any other hair colour. In fact I would consider myself to be very cool tempered. I never get angry, I have patience and don't act rashly.
Red hair doesn't go grey as quickly as other hair colours. It first tends to fade to a washed out copper blond colour then go white. We kind of miss that salt and pepper stage that darker hair goes through. We can even pretend our grey hairs are blond streaks once we have a few of them. We don't have to worry so much about dying our roots and whilst many of our friends will be familiar with home dye jobs once they finish their twenties, here I am in my mid 30's with so few white hairs, you'd have to look closely to spot one.
Fashion experts used to say redheads should not wear red. They thought it would clash. I guess this was in a time when women more more muted colours anyway but currently people with red hair wearing red clothes is quite acceptable. Even red lipstick is now recommended for red headed women to accentuate their dramatic colouring. Personally I think the worst colours on red heads are certain shades of pink and coral. This depends on the skin tone though, both look awful with pasty white or skin which is a bit sunburnt. (Living in Ireland, that applies to most people's skin in the summer)
You NEED a t-shirt with a red-heads slogan on it
If you're reading this, then I will presume you either are a red head, love red heads or have one of those weird fascinations with red heads. Which ever it is, don't keep it to yourself!
My life as a redhead
Once I reached my teens and gained complete control over what happened with my hair, I began to do things to it as most teenage girls do. I got it cut, to my shoulders, then I got a perm. then I had it cut some more, then I had some blond streaks (blame ginger spice), another perm...... In my twenties I rebelled against nature and went darker. I quite enjoyed the shock every morning when I looked into the mirror half asleep and saw this non red head looking back at me.
My hair had always been quite straight but it became more frizzy and wavy as I got older. I alternated between straightening it with wide plate GHD straighteners and adding mousse and scrunching it curly. It was quite wild and I battled to keep it looking neat and presentable. If left to it's own devices it looked like I had a big red cloud on top of my head.
It was during this time that I realised that even hairdressers are not quite sure about how to treat red hair. Red hair is thicker than other hair colours, even though we generally have less actual strands of hair, finding a hairdresser who did not leave my hair in the shape of a triangle was hard. This is something I still struggle with today. Any time I move to a new town or country I spend months or even years waiting for the right hair stylists to come along who just "gets it". The best hair salon I ever went to was in Cyprus. Most Cypriot women have thick hair and the joy at having my hair blow dried straight and thinned out so it fell exactly as it should, was immense. Sadly we left there and I am now in the hair in the shape of a triangle stage once again.
After several years of adding more and more blond streaks I decided, as I reached 30 that I would dye it no more. I realised that I may not have many more years of being able to have my natural hair colour and that I should appreciate it whilst I had it. It was almost an epiphany. After years of flighting it, changing it, wrestling with it, I gave in and let it do what the hell it wanted. Well, to a degree anyway. It still needs either straightening, tying back or some products added to make it curl but I don't dye it or make it do things it doesn't want to do.
My hair has darkened to a much more auburn colour than it was when I was younger. It has streaks of brown, strands which are as thick, shiny and wiry as copper wire and fine fair strands, a mixture of russet colours and textures which are totally unique to me.
Being a red head means people remember you, you don't blend in. For years I hated this but now I like the fact that I'm not easily forgotten. I often notice women in the street who have quite noticeably dyed red hair, staring at my mane of wild locks. It really is impossible to exactly replicate the colour.
I know that as some point in the future my hair will be white. I always forget when I go to the hairdressers to ask for a lock of my hair to keep. I may like to look at it when I'm an old, white haired old lady and remember how fantastic my hair truly was.
Photo: Not me unfortunately. I wish I could carry off such wild hair. Originally uploaded on flickr by Eddy Van 3000, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license
My weapons for dealing with my crazy hair
Wide plates and high heat battle even the most fuzzy frizzy hair. I LOVE my pair of these.
The worst bits about being a red head
When you have red hair many people feel the need to comment on your hair colour, both positive and negative. From old ladies, hairdressers, men in the street, EVERYBODY!
There's little chance of blending in with the crowd or not being noticed.
People may actually want to touch your hair!
Common misconceptions mean everyone thinks you have a fiery temper.
Other red headed people assume you should stick together and show solidarity against the world. (See ginger pride)
Polite people who don't like the use the word ginger, may call you strawberry blond. If you mix strawberries and blond you get pink right?
You get called ginger spice (by anyone over 30)
If you do want to dye your hair it can be a difficult, lengthy and costly process as red hair is much harder to dye than other colours.
My Red Hair over the yearsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Flying the flag for gingerishness
Far from being a small minority, there are loads of famous red heads who promote the cause of the "Ginger" and make us more accepted in society. Famous red heads can be found in every field, from actors, singers, musicians, sports people, politicians, comedians and figures throughout history. I'm not going to list all the famous redheads there are as that would just take forever but I'm going to tell you a bit about some of the most notable and my favourites.
Napolean Bonaparte had red hair, who knew? Everyone's favourite royal prince, Prince Harry not only has a lush thatch of thick red hair but is also very eligible, if anyone has made red headed men popular then Prince Harry certainly has. I also think German tennis player Boris Becker deserves a mention for having the blondest eyelashes I have seen. Chuck Norris, proved that you could have red hair and be a bad-ass and impish Rupert Grint, from the Harry Potter films has made geeky gingeriness desirable, as has singer Ed Sheeran and one of my favourites Seth Green. They're the kind of cute red headed men that you'd happily take home for tea with your mother. For the more red blooded out there, who can deny the enduring good looks of Robert Redford, the ever serious Damian Lewis and the delectable Ewan McGregor.
One of my favourite female redheads is Maureen O'Hara, who starred opposite John Wayne in the 1952 film "The Quiet Man" which was filmed close to where I currently live. Who can forget Julia Roberts riot of ginger curls in Pretty Woman. That hair has always been my inspiration although I often tend to look less Rodeo Drive and more rodeo riding. I also think younger Hollywood stars such as Emma Stone and Amy Adams are doing great things in educating the younger generation in the greatness of having red hair. Us red headed ladies have come a long way since Queen Elizabeth the first and her hot headed reputation.
Photo: HH the Prince HarryCC BY-SA 3.0, extracted by Eduardo Mendes - Photo: Billpolo
Red heads on YouTube - My favourite redhead clips.
On YouTube there are tons of videos about red heads, but there are a few which stand out for me. The first here is about a photographer who undertook a project to only photograph people with red hair. What a fantastic theme for an exhibit and some lovely photo's. The second is a classic famous redheads reel. The third, an article about Redheads day which is held in the Netherlands each year.
Let's wipe out Gingerphobia!
Yes Gingerphobia is real, so is Gingerism, which is a form of discrimination against people with red hair. This doesn't exist in most countries but is prevalent in the UK, where being different can have negative connotations. Whilst many countries have nicknames for people with red hair and some gentle teasing, the UK has seen assaults and violence towards redheaded people for no reason other than their hair colour.
Ginger Pride is a recent movement aimed at countering discrimination and has seen marches, flash mobs and events taking place worldwide. The first Ginger Pride march in the UK was held in 2013 in Edinburgh. As well as being a fun day out for anyone with red hair, it celebrates the fact that red heads are unique and that difference should not be seen as negative.
In the Netherlands they actually have a redheads day in the town of Breda where red heads from all over the world gather to celebrate their redheadedness.