I always hated having red hair as a kid.
Growing up in Australia, in the 1990s, with red hair was almost like having a giant bullseye — a giant bright red bullseye, on your head. Schoolyard taunts and chants of “Red Jocks”, “Blood Nut”, “Match Stick” — and my personal favourite, the most ridiculous of them all, “Carrot Top”.
Of course as soon as you point out that carrot tops are actually green, the smarter of the bullies would say “Hey, Carrot Bottom,” or “Carrot Arse” – and the more imaginative would just say “Carrot, arse, you put the pieces together.”
Now that I’m no longer a child, there’s something really awesome about being a redhead, a ginger, a bright neon orange beacon when I’m on stage performing and wearing all black. The look is strong and memorable. Having red hair, is not just a great gimmick for a performer to have, but it’s also a brand for me. My poetry reading stage name is Red Wolf in fact.
Having red hair is also great when working in sales, I have had many shit jobs, going door to door for corrupt NGO companies (I didn’t know at the time), there’s one thing that makes little old ladies open the door, offer me tea or coffee and cake…”Oh wow I just love your red hair. Are you Scottish, or Irish?”
I’ve spent a lot of time working with Indigenous communities in Northern Queensland. At, the time my hair was wild, my beard quite thick and heavy. I became somewhat of a minor celebrity to the local Indigenous kids, they loved playing with my hair, or rubbing my head. Indigenous elders loved me, many of the locals did. I later discovered that according to some Dreamtime stories, a few Indigenous people believed that those with flame red hair, like my own, were often seen as malicious entities similar to a Loki or Quinkin type figure. To this day, whenever I meet an Indigenous person even in passing, they will often smile and nod or wave.
However, the health benefits of being a redhead outweigh the social and memorable aspects of being the brightest colour in the room.
According to The Telegraph UK, “Scientists revealed that a gene which keeps people looking young is the same gene responsible for red hair and fair skin – meaning that ginger people are significantly less likely to age badly”.
Research out of Rotterdam seems to point out that those exhibiting a variation of the MC1R gene, known to cause ginger hair, look roughly two years younger than they actually turn out to be.
There number of scientific findings on the benefits of red hair are staggering. Some research shows that we can generate our own Vitamin D, must be something to do with being orange and attracting glorious sunlight, but let’s go to a far more interesting one.
According to the same The Telegraph UK article, redheads have more sex! Yes, I know your eyes jumped right onto that now didn’t it? Dr Werner Habermehl, of the Hamburg Research Institute in Germany, studied the sex lives and hair colour of hundreds of German women in 2006 and found those with red hair spent more time in the bedroom. Habermehl exclaims, “The research shows that the fiery redhead certainly lives up to her reputation.”
But of course the magnificence of red hair far proceeds our sexual prowess or even our own rejuvenation of Vitamin D. Think about how excellent everyone you have ever met with red hair has been. Everyone’s favourite TARDIS traveling Time Lord, is so besotted with red hair he bemoans the fact that he hasn’t regenerated into a ginger himself (now herself). Yet, the Doctor of Who has even had several redheaded companions; Tullouch, from the classic series and of course Amy Pond and Donna Noble.
Just think about some of the most remarkable people in history — yes, they’re gingers.
King Richard the Lionheart, most of the Tudor Kings and Queens, including Henry VII and Elizabeth I. James, the first Stuart king. Sir Winston Churchill, the composer Antonio Vivaldi, many historians still argue as to whether Alexander the Great was in fact blonde or ginger. Julianne Moore, Lois Griffin, Aerial from the Little Mermaid, Ed Sheeran and Prince Harry. Even Genghis Khan is now believed by some to have had red hair and green eyes, due to his Russian ancestry.
You can always spot a redhead in a nightclub. If you’re out with a bunch of mates and the only objects still visible are neons and strobe lights surrounded by darkness – the chances are you’ll still be able to spot us in the crowd. How many other hair colours have an amazing root plant like ginger named after them?
Nobody rocks the colours purple, green or blue like a ginger — don’t believe me? Check out an Autumnal fashion show. But, if you’re still not convinced and the question, “If gingers are so awesome, why do they get teased so much?,” still bothers you – the answer is simple. Gingers, matchsticks, redheads… we’re all incredible people and the teasing is a form of jealousy and frustration, definitely not hair superiority.
Here is where I draw the line, blondes may have more fun, but nothing flares like a redhead.
Words by James WF Roberts
IG – @jameswfroberts_poet
Art by Rachelle Lee