"Red hair, sir, in my opinion, is dangerous,” declared PG Wodehouse’s Jeeves. For a hair colour which makes up only 2 per cent of the world’s population, the fascination with redheads remains unwavering. Was Jeeves referring to a time of witch-hunting and carrot top persecution? And what would he have made of the slew of redheads at the dawn of 2021? There’s Phoebe Dynevor in Christmas Day’s Netflix extravaganza, Bridgerton, the utterly fabulous shock of Anya Taylor-Joy’s in The Queen’s Gambit not to mention Nicole Kidman and Isla Fisher celebrating their ginge finery on screen of late.
My obsession with fiery red hair was ignited by frequent visits to Tate Britain, posturing as a serious (OK then, painful) History of Art student. Here I fell for John Everett Millais’s Ophelia or Elizabeth Siddal, the flame-haired Pre-Raphaelite who married Dante Gabriel Rossetti and caught pneumonia from lying in a bath of cold water to portray Shakespeare’s heroine.
It was something I realised I could affect with a box of L’Oreal’s Feria and infinitely more achievable than convincing my awkward, Chinese-looking, 17-year-old self that I had a hope in hell of ever resembling Christy Turlington.
Nearly 30 years later, I have never looked back. Blame it on being a Leo, or in the Chinese horoscope, a dragon – pah, make that a fire dragon – but I love the otherness of being a redhead.
It’s quel statement, so much so, that the rest of you, especially clothing wise, can be pared back which utterly suits the minimal way I like to dress. It’s my equivalent of a slick of red lippy on an otherwise make-up free face. And let me count the ways it looks wondrous against cream, white or any shade of green.
Colourist and fellow redhead David Inman at George Northwood says that “having red hair feels like a superpower”. He isn’t wrong. Redheads are better able to synthesise vitamin D meaning they also have a stronger immune system.
For other aspiring redheads, Sibi Bolan, the genius who has been making my hair copper for over a decade, counsels avoiding shampoo with silicone and sulphates which strip the hair. Davines Alchemic Copper Conditioner is high on her list to intensify and illuminate.
There’s also the solidarity of being a redhead which I enjoy: that half smile on the Tube or in a supermarket aisle. Why don’t blondes and brunettes have a special look? Ha, because they are two-a-penny, that’s why.