Monday, July 25, 2011

The Dislike of Red Hair in 19th Century England

The following quotes about red hair come from an article about hair dye that was published in 1866. The article was simply titled ‘Hair Dyeing’ and appeared in a publication called ‘The Spectator.’

This first quote talks of how the English vilified red hair;
"[T]he English horror of light hair in women was almost comical in its intensity, so deep as to affect literature and penetrate the opinions of the uncultivated mass. One shade of red, that false auburn which is red in the sun and brown under artificial light, was tolerated, chiefly, we imagine, because fashionable opinion is formed under chandeliers; but the true auburn, which has a golden flash in it under the sun and a red flash only by candle light, the auburn which the Italian painters loved three centuries ago, and Millais can paint now when he will let his imagination work as well as his eyes, was utterly condemned, all the more viciously perhaps because that is the shade in which hair is found most voluminous and silky."
"As to the different shades of red, the language was ransacked to find terms of abhorrence which should be sufficiently expressive, and while the costermonger asked somebody "to put out that 'ere bonnet, it must be burning by now," the peer summed up his dislike in the emphatic word "Carrots!" So deep was the disgust for this shade that it extended even to men's heads. Nobody ever suggested that men with fair hair could not be handsome, or denied that the highest Norman type, the tall, fair-haired, steel-eyed, light-complexioned man, was the ideal type of all, but everybody professed to abominate red. Hundreds of schoolboys have had their lives rendered miserable by a shade too much of the hated colour[.]”
I think this final quote is my favourite, though;
"Part of the objection to red hair no doubt arose from the ugly complexion, and freckles, and turned up nose by which it is often accompanied, but the aversion was felt and expressed even in cases where red hair was only the natural complement of very regular beauty."

1 comment:

  1. The author of this 'The Spectator' article gives no sources to support the existence of some English hatred of red hair, and certainly no such hatred even existed, especially not to the degree claimed by this fantastic example of yellow journalism. If, however, there was a disdain for red hair it can be explained as an expression of the nature of the Danish-Swedish (Norman) and Anglo-Saxons, who were the greatest percentage of the English population, to prefer their own race which, originally, was mostly blonde. I suppose though that this article is playing on the myth of English "bigotry" for the sake of sensationalism.