Red hair occurs naturally in just 1–2% of the human population. Yet, despite their paucity – and the innumerable slurs they incur – the auburn, ginger and strawberry blonde have always held positions of power, loathing and acclaim. From Boudicca, Judas Iscariot and Elizabeth I, to Nell Gwyn, Rita Hayworth and Lindsay Lohan, they have dominated history’s headlines, and Another Man’s latest cover star, King Krule, looks set to do the same. Hailed as the next great hope for British music, his vivid hair is just another thing that sets him apart from the conventional young musician.
"Redheads have always dominated history’s headlines, and Another Man’s latest cover star King Krule looks set to do the same"
The facts about the redheaded are these. Scotland has the highest proportion of redheads in the world, with 13% of their population sporting red, auburn, or strawberry blond hair, while Ireland is second with 10%. Studies have shown they are more sensitive to thermal pain, and require greater amounts of anesthetic. The term redhead (originally redd hede) has been in use since at least 1510. Fictions are more abundant. Over the years, they have been ridiculed as lusty and quick tempered, feared as vampires, denounced as witches by the Malleus Maleficarum and burnt at the stake, cursed as bad luck by the Egyptians, credited as good luck by the Romans, wielded by Shakespeare as anti-semitic propoganda and pinpointed as a bee’s first choice of victim. Truly, there is no other hair colour so bewailed, despised, or mythologised, so to try and reset the balance, and in honour of our cover star, we present AnOther’s Ten Favourite Redheads.
1. David Bowie
Created by Suzy Fussey, a hairdresser in Beckenham, the famous Ziggy Stardust mullet – short on top, and dyed bright red – has become one of the most iconic looks in musical history. Allegedly inspired by a spiky-haired mannequin that Bowie saw in a magazine, it moved him from blonde, pale and interesting, into the otherworldly persona of Ziggy Stardust and a stratospheric level of fame. Dylan Jones has described it as, “probably the most stylish hairstyle that any pop star's ever had”, but Bowie himself is more philosophical. Looking back in 1993, he said, "When you've had red hair and no eyebrows you've got to have a sense of humour."2. Emily Dickinson
The 19th century poet is customarily portrayed as an ethereal madwoman, a cerebral Mrs Rochester. For the latter half of her life, she rarely crossed the threshold of her home, whenever she was glimpsed by her neighbours she was clad all in white, and she took to speaking to visitors through the crack of the door. These stories mean that it may come as a surprise to learn that Dickinson had vivid red hair. She was, she said, “small like the wren; and my hair is bold, like the chestnut burr; and my eyes like the sherry in the glass that the guest leaves.” But taking away her eccentric and isolated reputation, perhaps the colour of her hair isn’t so strange. In her poetry, if not her day-to-day existence, can be found all the extremes of emotion so customarily ascribed to the redhead.3. Vincent van Gogh
There is no photographic evidence of van Gogh’s hair colour, but luckily the artist painted dozens of self-portraits, detailing an intense, high cheekboned man with bright copper hair and beard. An unfortunate poster boy for those who associate red hair with extremes of emotion and neuroses, Van Gogh died at just 37, having lived a life of physical and mental illness, artistic genius and frustration and the infamous incident when, after a contretemps with his friend Gauguin, he sliced off his left ear. 4. Julianne Moore
Undeniably one of the most beautiful actresses of modern times, Julianne Moore’s long red hair is one of her trademarks, along with pale skin and freckles. Shot by Inez & Vinoodh for the cover of AnOther Magazine A/W07, she emerges from a cloud of red, a shade she has stuck with throughout her career where other actresses have swayed with the seasons.
"When you've had red hair and no eyebrows you've got to have a sense of humour." — David Bowie
5. Malcolm X
One of the most influential African Americans in history, Malcolm X’s short life was tempestuous and varied. A life of crime in New York was swiftly followed by prison, where he converted to the Nation of Islam, an emerging religious movement preaching black self-reliance and empowerment. His reddish hair, inherited from his Scottish maternal grandmother, earned him the nickname Detroit Red, but it was a sore point with him – representing as it did his white ancestry.6. Philip Seymour Hoffman
One of the saddest moments of this year came with the news that the great actor Philip Seymour Hoffman had died of a drug overdose. An unconventional leading man, he left two-dimensional smouldering to the pretty boys, instead taking on a varied roster of parts that he never failed to imbue with madness, genius, weakness, humanity and truth. From Scotty in Boogie Nights and the straitlaced teacher in 25th Hour, to the flamboyance of Capote and the creepiness of the Master in Paul Thomas Anderson’s eponymous film, he fixed the gaze and chilled the bone in every role he played, all the while remaining humble and grounded. His hair started as strawberry blonde, before fading into white, but his passion remained on a par with his initially red hair.7. Sonia Rykiel
A pioneer of the ready-to-wear movement in France, Rykiel opened her first shop in 1968, on Paris’s rue de Grenelle, after years of designing for her husband’s boutique Laura. Creating clothes for “uncomplicated comfort”, she walks the near-impossible line between superb chic and effortless “démodé”, promoting layering and doing deconstruction long before the likes of Comme des Garçons. Her flaming hair, which she has kept up to this day, is a testament to her particular brand of French insouciance and élan.8. Michael Fassbender
Fassbender is something of a secret ginger, as his roles often require his hair to be dyed. Irish by birth, his heritage is marked particularly in his beard which, when allowed to grow naturally, is particularly fiery. 9. Cleopatra
The most famous woman of the Ancient world has been immortalised in modern minds as a brunette, thanks to her portrayal by the dark haired, fair skinned likes of Vivian Leigh and Elizabeth Taylor. However, academics have put forward the ideas that she could either have been a natural red head – some ancient and indeed modern Egyptians did have dark red hair – or that she may have dyed her hair with henna, a style very au courant at the time. A fresco found at Herculaneum depicting a regal red headed woman has been identified by some historians as the Egyptian Queen; however the millennia that have passed, and the scorn which has been poured on the suggestion by a multitude of irate academics, make it is impossible to know for sure.10. Grace Coddington
One of the most beloved figures in fashion, Grace Coddington was a model in the sixties, before becoming a stylist at, and now creative director of, American Vogue. Always known within her world, she gained international renown after the release of the documentary The September Issue in 2011, when her freewheeling creativity and wildly untamed ginger hair were placed in contrast to the frozen coiffure and controlled persona of Anna Wintour.
Text by Tish Wrigley