Trending: Ladies in red
A friend of mine, for whom having a heart-stopping face was not enough, used to dye her hair a red verging on carmine. She was at her most potent then: She wore black velvet, smoked thin cigarettes and laughed generously. When her hair began to fade back to a regularly lovely sort of amber, she seemed also to retreat a little from life. I couldn’t say which change came first: the hair or the temperament.
For no woman are the two so inextricably tangled than the Titian kind. “Gentlemen prefer blonds, marry a brunette and have always had a thing for a redhead,” goes the Playboy-ism. But while blonds and brunettes are plentiful enough to dilute their stereotypes, natural redheads spring from a genetic mutation occurring in less than 4% of the (Caucasian) population. We simply don’t know enough of them to know them. In ancient Egypt, the fire-haired were offered sacrificially to Egyptian gods; in the Middle Ages, they were presumed to be vampires. And while the Celts considered them sacred, the Irish-loathing Brits consequently persecuted them (even today, “gingers” are bullied in savage England). And in the rest of the Western world, true redheads remain as wanted and elusive as that vermilion villain, Carmen Sandiego.
“There is a certain kind of woman who wants to have red hair,” says L’Oreal Professional’s director of education, Colin Ford. He points to Julianne Moore as the natural, nu-Titian ideal; her, or a Moulin Rouge!-era Nicole Kidman. “If someone dyes her hair red, she wants the attention, and she is not afraid.” Although “flash reds” — the highly unnatural, sour-cherry hues seen most often on hairdressers themselves, or Rihanna — are increasingly popular, Ford says most fake redheads don’t want to look it. “There is something special about being a redhead,” he tells me — then concedes he’s rather ginger himself.