I have a confession to make. I have an uncontrollable and passionate obsession with gingers, red heads, auburn-haired people, whatever you like to call them. Seen in society as outcasts and objects of ridicule (how often have you heard the insult “ginge”?), I simply do not understand the prejudice against them especially as I lust so completely after their flame-coloured locks. Whether natural or unnatural, orange or red, curly or straight, there is something about auburn hair that leaves me scrambling for a bottle of hair dye.
My love affair with auburn hair began at a young age. Watching the cartoon Totally Spies!, my favourite character was the lusciously long-haired red head Sam. She was the most intelligent, the most mature and the leader of the group – and she was also ginger. My favourite Spice Girl was, yes you’ve guessed it, Ginger Spice. At the age of 14 I attempted to dye my hair red with the cheapest dye possible – much to the horror of my mother it turned a sour shade of pinky red but I absolutely adored it. Flash forward to a few months ago and I sat in front of The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus absolutely transfixed, not by the graphics or Heath Ledger, but by the flowing auburn curls of Lily Cole.
Our society is not kind to red heads. Often a target for bullying, abuse or just ordinary teasing, there is something about the pale skin and flaming hair of a red head that we British just don’t like. It’s different, it’s special, it’s noticeable – and so what does not fit the norm must be punished. Whilst it is true that much of the prejudice against red heads is seemingly well-meaning and tongue-in-cheek (the nationwide Facebook event “Kick a Ginger Day” attended by many such gingers themselves), it seems odd that people are singled out for possessing a rare and beautiful trait. Jealousy perhaps?
But for every jealous hater of ginger hair, there is a lover, an aficionado if you will, of the rare hair colour. The blog http://fuckyeahredhair.tumblr.com/ has numerous followers, posting pictures of girls and boys with red hair every day. Thousands of red heads attended the annual Red Hair Day festival this year in the Dutch city of Breda. Christina Hendricks, a star of the TV show Mad Men, continues to captivate Hollywood with her refreshing mix of porcelain skin, fiery red hair and curvy figure. A far cry from the usual skeletal orange celebrities that normally adorn the pages of any glossy magazine.
So the question remains, do I dare to dye? Twice now I have bought the shade I want from Boots and exchanged it for blonde later in a paralysis of indecision. The threat of it looking completely wrong on me is one that lurks at the back of my mind, and worry that I cannot pull off the confident and radiant demeanour that is so essential to any red head. For now I am simply content to stop and stare. What is certain though is that mine is a love affair that has no intention of disappearing anytime soon.
Originally published on The Yorker 13th December 2010