Yesterday I realised that it has been a year since I gave in to my hair’s slightly ginger tendencies, and went from blonde to full-blown red head. Over the year, the colour has ranged from bright cherry, to strawberry blonde, and has currently settled at a suitably Christmassy auburn. And after my year of giving up the platinum, would I say blondes have more fun? Absolutely not.
On a practical note, being blonde required much more upkeep, and regular salon visits, which gets expensive. My various shades of red have been maintained by a fabulous friend and her skills in kitchen hairdressing, and my hair is the healthiest and shiniest it has been since pre-bleaching, which said fabulous friend likes to remind me is NEVER ALLOWED TO HAPPEN AGAIN.
Image from Pinterest
What does my hair have to do with people watching, you ask? Well, more interesting than my newly discovered appreciation of having shiny hair is other people’s reactions to red hair. They have been mixed. One brother says he “preferred it blonde”, the other, in a manner appropriate to the school playground, says “ha, you’re ginger”, while my mum loved it so much she decided to join me and become a redhead. Long-time friends found the change a bit of a shock, in a “why would you want to be ginger?” sense, but the general consensus among my trusted advisers has been to keep it red. Strangers tend to assume red hair is natural, maintaining the playground attitude of disbelief that anyone would choose to be ginger. On the one hand, this creates a camaraderie among redheads, and a compliment, or even uncertainty as to whether my colour is natural from a fellow redhead has left me more than a little smug.
On a less positive note, however, something I noticed almost immediately was that as a redhead, I get catcalled much less in the street than I did as a blonde. Unless I have aged so dramatically in a year that I am no longer of interest to builders, “lads” in cars etc., I think we can safely assume this is down to hair colour. The attitude of some men that it is acceptable to wolf-whistle at passing females seems to apply more to blondes than to other hair colours. This suggests that blonde stereotypes are very much alive and well, and, somewhat disturbingly, the belief that blondes have more fun comes from an idea that they are more desirable to men. Before dying my hair red, truthfully I had never really thought about stereotypes associated with hair colour, but in switching from “Dumb Blonde” to “Soulless Ginger” (or “Carrot Heid” in Scotland) I have noticed a real difference. While I am not suggesting that this is by any stretch of the imagination the biggest issue of stereotyping in our society, it touches on a wider issue that, for whatever reason, people tend to categorise according to appearance, and to associate certain character and personality traits with aspects of appearance, whether based on fundamentals like race and gender, or something as trivial as hair colour. With red hair or blonde, or indeed with dark or light skin, as male or female, I am no more or less intelligent, promiscuous, or anything else people might associate with hair colour, or any other aspect of appearance.