The Flaming Hot History Of Red Hair

by BRENDA L. / OCT 4, 2022

Reading Time: 6 Minutes


    Redheads have been around for a very long time, and although we now proudly celebrate their natural beauty, fire-coloured tresses have a long history of mixed feelings.
    What’s the truth behind being a redhead throughout the centuries? Let’s have a look at red hair’s history together.

    Where Does Red Hair Come From?

    Compared to blonde shades and the far more common brunettes, red hair is an extremely rare trait to inherit and display. Clues suggest that red hair might date back to the Neanderthals, where the first red hair gene was found. However, after all these years of evolution, even the red hair gene changed - so much that the one responsible for flaming hot tresses in humans nowadays is completely different from the old-school Neanderthal version. 

    Names For Redheads

    Carrot top, copperhead, rusty, gingernut. These are only a few of the bad nicknames that redheads have been called. No matter the location, red-haired people have often been labelled as violent, tempered, or dangerous - and often associated with witchcraft or the devil. Italian author Giovanni Verga made a redhead the main character of a short story of his, Rosso Malpelo (which roughly translates to “evil redhead”.

    Nowadays, the public’s perception of red hair has changed drastically. For instance, they are  finally celebrated as a rarity - and the names and association are now far more positive. Flaming Red Hair is the title of a piece from The Lord Of The Rings’s soundtrack, and kissed by fire is how the wildlings from Game Of Thrones describe red-haired people. Jon Snow's main romantic interest is, in fact, a kissed by fire lady with bright red tresses. Ginger is still widely used, and delicious names reminiscent of cherries and strawberries are often associated with red tresses.

    @cristinacarmellaa I could do a part 2!! People always have something to say abt my hair 😭 #ginger #redhead #gamerboy ♬ Miami, My Amy - Keith Whitley

    Life Of A Redhead

    Being a redhead used to be incredibly tough. Folk wisdom has often described red-haired people as hot-headed, and even associated them with evil worshipping and such. Being red-haired could also determine how you would get perceived by people based on your gender. Even nowadays, in some cases red-haired women are generally perceived as extremely attractive - whilst male redheads not so much.



    ♬ original sound - Sam Smith

    In Roman times, redheads inspired contradictory behaviour. In fact, although natural gingers were often regarded as untrustworthy, Roman ladies found cherry-like tresses extremely attractive - so much, that wig makers of the time were extremely busy importing red hair from northern Europe to make their clientele happy.

    Later on - and especially during the Middle Ages, red hair turned was believed to be a demonic feature. Redheads were often labelled as witches, vampires, and werewolves. Perhaps this is because of the abundance of redheads amongst the celts, who often practised magic and druidism. Another possible factor is red hair’s rarity.

    Redheads Changed The World

    Even though they’re so rare, some red-haired people are notable characters in history - and chances are you probably didn’t even know they were redheads, until now! Ever heard of Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer? Chances are you carried their adventures in your backpack as a kid. The great mind behind these two literature masterpieces is Mark Twain, a ginger! During his time, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution was rapidly gaining fame. The author’s comment about it was that whilst the rest of humans may have descended from apes, redheads were direct descendants of cats. Quite charming!

    Galileo Galilei, the Father of Modern Physics, was also a redhead. His scientific mind and revolutionary ideas were considered heresy at the time, and even though he could have repented to regain his freedom, Galileo spent his life under house arrest writing groundbreaking papers. His stereotypical red-haired stubbornness was the trailblazer for our modern science.

    Florence Nightingale - who trained female volunteers to nurse wounded soldiers in order to help overworked doctors during the Crimean War - was a fiery redhead. Following the war, she helped establish the first nursing school in England, her country of origin. Thanks to her efforts and knowledge, nursing became an official, respected profession.

    Elizabeth I, daughter of Anne Boleyn and Queen of England from 1558 to 1603, was famous for two things: her rejection of marriage and her fiery red hair. Elizabeth I chose not to marry as she believed she needed to stay independent to protect her country - something that she could’ve potentially risked by marrying off to a foreign prince. She is also famous for defeating the Spanish armada.

    Red Is Attractive

    Being attracted to red is hardwired into humans. Scientifically, human beings developed the ability to recognise and differentiate between different shades of red, green and blue to survive (if you couldn’t see colours, recognising fruits and berries in a dense forest could be very, very hard). Over time, red became associated with things such as fire, warmth, the sun, and even blood. Red is a visceral colour that makes people subconsciously think of survival, reproduction, seduction and strong emotions. Advertisements and media often work with red-haired models to attract the consumer’s attention, using their hair colour for subtle marketing psychology.

    @cyb3rbl1nk it’s gone the perfect colour now #uk#asian#fyp#duet#redhair ♬ Fever - caribbeannmusic💌

    Redheads In Media Are Pure Badass

    From Kimpossible to Black Widow, Scarlet Witch and more - redheads in the media are always portrayed as fiery bombshells or kickass superheroes. Game Of Thrones’ very own Ygritte has flaming hot hair, and Disney princess Merida was gifted with bright red curls too. Ambientalist DC villain Poison Ivy sports long scarlet tresses, and Moulin Rouge’s female lead is… Yes, a redhead whose beauty gave her the nickname of “Sparkling Diamond”.

    The 90s had their very own red-haired beauty queens - such as Willow from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and Dana Scully from The X-Files. Shortly after, the live action of “Scooby Doo” brought up the trendiest paranormal investigator ever, Daphne Blake, played by Sarah Michelle Geller. Superheroes and wizards love redheads, and Spider Man can confirm this too - as one of his most famous girlfriends ever, Mary Jane, was blessed with ginger locks too. Also, shoutout to Harry Potter’s wife, Ginny Weasley.
    Last but not least, one of the major cinema icons of the early 00s was unapologetically red haired: Lindsay Lohan!

    Some Celebrities Made A Career Out Of Red Hair

    Lindsey Lohan was famous for her red hair, and stood out at casting calls exactly because of this feature. Actresses such as Bryce Dallas Howard and Jessica Chastain have refused any requests to change their hair colour for a role. Last but not least, some natural blondes or brunettes have dyed their hair red instead to make their careers skyrocket. A few examples? Emma Stone, Gigi Hadid, Amy Adams and Bella Thorne. Even songstress and beauty mogul Rihanna had an iconic “red hair” phase that made history! 


    Nowadays red hair is not only a physical feature but a fashion statement and a proper lifestyle that people adopt when changing their hair colour. Throughout history, many a redhead played a crucial role in the events that shaped the world, and this once-unappreciated trait is now more popular than ever.

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