Redhead Redemption

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Emily Patterson

People with red hair have learned to embrace their rarity.

By Laura Shaw, Hagerty High School

Eyes, skin and hair are among the most identifiable features of any person, but that is especially heightened when the combination of genes from both of your parents decides to bless, or curse, someone with an extra rare attribute. Red hair being the most noticeable of them all and sticking out like a sore thumb.

According to the British Broadcasting Company, between 1% or 2% of the world’s population has red hair, making it the rarest hair color to inherit, and while that is incredibly fascinating, it burdens redheads to be victims of lots of unwarranted comments and assumptions. 

“Strangers think it’s funny to tell me I have no soul… being a redhead doesn’t change your personality,” redheaded senior Kayley Gilman said.
This is because a common stereotype of people with red hair is that they are hot-headed and the assumption can be dated back to ancient times. According to the Washington Post, the Scythians and Thracians, inhabitants of western Eurasia in sixth century B.C., were described by Ancient Greek writers as having red hair and being infamous for their aggression. This myth has been passed down through the ages, and now scarlet haired people far and wide are assumed to have the same temperament. While Gilman denies she possesses the trait red haired senior Rusty Taylor believes he does.

“I definitely think I have a short temper. I get mad really easily,” Taylor said. 

Apart from just the assumption that they will blow up at the slightest comment, redheads are also subject to lots of teasing because of the hair, especially growing up. Anyone that looks different knows that insults from peers and comments from adults are very common. Bullying can start as early as elementary school and carry into middle and high, with kids sporting nicknames such as ‘carrot top.’

“I was teased at the beginning of school…but I just ignored it,” Taylor said.

 Inappropriate comments from male peers are especially common for girls, contributing to the usual snarky banter with their specific traits.

“Sometimes guys forget boundaries and ask me inappropriate questions. I’m proud to be a redhead, but I don’t like when it becomes other people’s business,” Gilman said. 

Both Taylor and Gilman admit that they have Scottish and Irish descent from one of their parents, but aren’t exactly sure where the hair color is from.. This is a case for a lot of redheads, as the genes are recessive and can not show up in family lines for generations. Taylor is the first person with red hair in his family for two generations. Gilman says that both her older sister, mom and grandfather have red hair but are the only ones in their extended family with it despite heavy Scottish ancestry on that side.

 Despite the teasing and extra attention, lots of gingers are proud of their fiery locks and agree that differences are not always bad. Some students even feel that it doesn’t make them different at all; it simply draws attention to them.

“I don’t feel different, I feel superior,” said Taylor. 

Because the hair is so relevant in their lives, many people feel that it has almost become a part of their identity. It is associated with their personality, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.       

Red hair comes with more baggage than other genetics, but redheads feel that the positives significantly outweigh the negatives. Standing out in a room and compliments from strangers can be weird and the people with this hair can agree that although there are a lot of disadvantages to the hair they would never change it.

“I like that it makes me, me,” says Gilman.

This story was originally published on Hagerty Journalism Today on December 18, 2020.