Or: You May Only Get So Far in Life

The place of the redhead in history and mythology is a varied one. The keepers of this many named and mutli-shaded title have walked the earth for thousands of years; we have had champions and villains among our ranks, as well as queens and emperors.

Modern times, though, have diminished our power, and relegated some of us to the level of social subspecies. Even amongst ourselves, we are divided, and the experience of redheadedness differs greatly between the sexes.

To look abroad into the field of Man is to see few redheads upon its heights. Chances are, though, you either already or will some day know someone who has red hair. Take this as a primer. Only through knowledge may we hope to understand each other.

The Differences Start Small

This curse-blessing begins at the cellular level, with pigment packets called melanosomes. They're manufactured by cells in the hair bulb called melanocytes, and absorbed by the hair strand as it grows.

The something familiar in those words is melanin, the same stuff that gives skin its color and is thus additionally responsible for the unremitting pastiness of most redheads. Carriers of the red mantle have pheomelanosomes, while the brunettes among you have eumela nosomes.

A note for you flaxen folk--you have melanosomes, but they're incompletely pigmented. So please, for God's sake, put something on.

The Color Scheme

You may have noticed that natural red hair is in fact rarely what is considered red in a non-hair context. The English language does not contain adequate provisions for all the variations; red hair is a matter of reference points without a standard. More orange than red one may be, another more copper than orange. The most commonly seen, and in simplest terms, are as follows:

  • Orange

  • Red

  • Strawberry Blonde

Each field contains an entire spectrum of its own, but all essentially contain varying ratios of what look like blonde and brown.

As usual, we have only our parents to blame. A single, incompletely dominant gene pair with two alleles, red (G) or no red (g), gets wired in by God, Fate or coincidence and just won't wash out, no matter what. Two G's will make everyone around you see very red, while a Gg combination will somewhat quench the flames. That all gets mixed in with the other many hair genes, producing the wide range of colors.

A redhead, by the way, may in the course of his/her life appear to fall safely under each of the three categories above, as the stuff usually darkens with age.

The Name Game

Many of you will be familiar with these appellations, having used them in playground and other social scenarios. Users should note that while redheads appreciate originality, we rarely find it in this medium.

And of course, the slightly more adult-themed and always popular firecrotch. Or ginger minge, as I've been led to understand.

This list is by no means comprehensive, thank you very much.

In Fact and Fiction

Famous redheads abound in history, made up or otherwise. We'll begin with some crimson characters of old.

In Myth:

That last one--along with one I'll mention in a moment--has attached to our already beleaguered people an old reputation for wickedness and the practice of black magic. Red hair was a great sign of the witch, and the ground bones of redheaded men were a common ingredient in spells and potions when people bothered to make them.

And of course, there are entire hosts of redheads in other myths and lore, from leprechauns to great Norse gods.

In History

Again, that isn't everybody, and for much of it we're relying on paintings and second-hand descriptions, at best. For whatever reasons, though, history has so colored them.

In Fun

Our animated, drawn, and graphic heritage is thus nearly as diverse as that of real life. Actually, we seem to do a bit better on paper.

A Day in the Life

The redheaded experience varies greatly according to shade, but a line may be drawn most boldly between the sexes. The male redhead risks a life less lauded than the female in many circumstances, and I shall add the following disclaimer:

Red Hair Can be a Hurdle for All. Not All Redheads Will Agree with the Following.


The male often bumps his red head on a glass ceiling of attractiveness. Very few of us achieve the standard of what would be called 'handsome'. Too often, 'cute' is our highest peak.

A by-product of this effect may be the slim number of red-headed male celebrities blending into the red carpet at movie premiers and gala luncheons. Name as many still living as you can; a hand and a half should suffice. Oh, hooray, they let us have David Caruso.

Redheaded women, on the other hand, are in and of themselves an actual fetish. That may be an unwelcome state of affairs, but it nonetheless demonstrates a difference. Do a Google search under redhead, as many of us--er, you--have, and you will come up with a vast number of pornographic sites dedicated to the purpose.

That's really only a half-complaint. It certainly livened up my research.

Simply put, redheaded men are not sex symbols. We have no Rita Hayworth, no Nicole Kidman, not even an Angie Everhart.

Archie did well with the ladies, but then, he's fictional.


Greek Mythology held that redheads and vampirism went tooth-and-neck. Perhaps. But perhaps it may have had more to do with our tendency to go scarlet after only brief exposure to the sun. Most redheads don't do well on the beach--look for lots of t-shirts, zinc, and hats.

SPF 8 is a thing almost wholly unknown to us--as is a 'healthy' tan. Tradeoff being we won't age into jerky.

The Wearable Palette

We daily wear a color that just doesn't go with everything. You won't catch most redheads in colors like to those with which they are naturally equipped.

Men especially tend to avoid that whole side of the spectrum; my own wardrobe is an exercise in blues, greens, and gray. If you see one of our number wearing yellow, approach with caution. He may have lost his wits.

Benefits to the Life

For many, they come few and far between. During our youth, we are subjected to outlandish namecalling, and the near continuous and undesirable attention of countless octogenarians absolutely fascinated by our hair. Later, we tend towards freckles, and we always look slightly worse under fluorescent lights than most.

But--those of us who are a bit hirsute don't show it as much as brunettes. Limited tolerance to exposure to the elements often keeps our skin smooth and hydrated, and at least when the men among us grow red beards, they match. Lots of two-tone men out there, for some bizarre reason.

And of course, whatever the sex or sexual orientation, some people are just really, really into red hair.

Living With It

It's a mixed bag. But I would say this to all readers and mockers of our kind, past or present:

History has defined for us a state of otherness; but we are attributed power and magic. Our numbers may be fewer; yet we are everywhere. We are subject to hardship; yet we triumph. We are legion.

Addendum: 10-15-02
A new study indicates that redheads may need more anaesthesia than the rest of you lot to be safely knocked out. Why? Because we're *that* @#$!ing hard. Yeah.

Solidarity with:

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