From this season’s runways to the celebrity circuit, redheads are red hot. By Cleo Glyde.
Red has always been the biggest, baddest, boldest hue in the hair colour spectrum. Of course, no-one has ever dyed their hair flame-red to blend in. As a lifelong ‘volunteer’, I know. I have always wanted to be a member of Club Redhead – I have coloured my hair butterscotch since my teens, when my blonde-streaked brown just didn’t seem to match how I felt inside. When I busted out of the ’burbs as a teen and headed to Paris on study leave – accidentally dropping out of Adelaide Law School – it was time to leave my brown pigtails behind.
With my fair skin and Irish mother, I looked the part and felt like an honorary member who should go the whole way. As soon as I became a card-carrying redhead, I had a licence to be cheeky and defiant. In a way, my personality and hair started a symbiotic relationship: this vibrant new colour allowed me to express a rebellious streak. And in turn, everyone’s projections and expectations egged me on to be even more over-the-top. ‘That crazy redhead’ became an inextricable part of my early modelling career and identity (I once used the name ‘cyclonecleo’ for my email address).
Backstage this season, flame-coloured tresses did more than just ‘pop’ visually: they became beauty’s next big thing. After last year’s holographic lips and jewel-studded eyes, this season’s unmistakable mood shift was fiery locks – not just the uniform ginger or auburn we associate with natural redheads, but exciting, electric, knowingly artificial rock-star red.
On the Miu Miu runway, Australian model Lily Nova’s natural ginger was turbo-charged into shocking manga neon by British colourist Josh Wood, using Redken pro colour. Korean model EZ’s buzz cut was unexpectedly rust-coloured, totally reimagining its androgynous edge. At Gucci, Lina Hoss strutted a burnt-orange crop, jutting sky-high with unmistakably glam Bowie-esque flair – British stylist Paul Hanlon says the look was a nod to 70s and 80s underground Chelsea punk.
Major style-statement red has been echoed by celebrities in all their glittery glory. Pop star Rita Ora ditched platinum to sport fluorescent red and dark roots with her usual street insouciance. American rapper Justina Valentine has made vibrant, ultra-faux red part of her wild-child branding. Even actress Blake Lively’s strawberry bronde, as pretty as a sparkling bellini, brings a boho edge to her gloriously tumbling, Rapunzel-worthy locks, updating her more mainstream cheerleader aesthetic.
Red stole the shows as colourists like Wood pronounced that the hue has replaced last year’s Mad Max- inflected platinum trend. Clearly, red’s mesmerising visual power is helping women embody and express our era’s radical female fearlessness.
“Bold, bright reds are it right now,” confirms colour expert and Goldwell ambassador Neil Barton, who has noted their rise across the UK and at his busy Edinburgh salon, Neil Barton Hairdressing. “Requests for bright fire and cherry red are rising.” His favourite red-carpet redhead is Emma Stone (a natural blonde). “Her
muted, coppery red has a gorgeous shine and looks stunning with her skin tone and current lob. I also love how actress Eleanor Tomlinson’s fiery red really shows off her bright blue eyes.”
Barton sees the current reign of coppery reds as perfect for Australian women, especially coming into summer. “They add warmth to the complexion and look great with a tan.” Barton is also a fan of the rose gold trend: “The mix of warm red and cool pink is flattering, because it works across all skin tones. This gorgeous metallic is all over Instagram at the moment.”
Red’s graphic boldness suits social media, whose main currency is maximum visual impact. It’s the perfect experimental showcase for hairstylists like LA-based Elena Palacios, whose fiery ‘Hot Cheetos’ ombre creation blends red, orange and yellow. On Instagram #redhair has more than 13 million posts alone, a cornucopia of style and colour, from natural freckles and ringlets to cyber-bright waves reminiscent of cartoon character Ariel in The Little Mermaid.
My Sydney-based colourist, George Giavis, currently tints my hair ginger for summer and a deeper, more red-setter hue for winter, sometimes adding a bright strawberry wash on the ends. “There is something about the current mood of women fighting back and redheads that just goes together,” says Giavis. “And expertly coloured red is a luxe colour that can make hair look lustrous and healthy, especially if you use organic colour like I do.” Giavis also thinks that women should embrace the clash factor of red with bold summer colours: “Everyone notices the redhead in the room. There’s an old saying: blondes have more fun, but redheads do the damage.”
Flaming tresses have always been the most emotionally charged hue, conjuring the tempestuous qualities that we associate with a hot-tempered Celtic colleen: fiery, untameable wildness. This intensity is exemplified by glorious Maureen O’Hara’s portrayal of a flame-haired shepherdess in the Technicolor classic The Quiet Man, from 1952. Like a bucking wild horse, Mary Kate is the ultimate prize for someone man enough to tame her. Enter the mesmerised John Wayne.
“Maureen O’Hara played the returned immigrant’s fantasy of a feisty Celtic woman,” says cultural commentator Dr Ruth Barton in the 2008 Irish documentary Rua, which is Gaelic for red. Seeing this iconic character hold her own (“It will be more than words you’ll be getting if you come another step closer”) is electrifying, and erotically charged. “That resistance is somehow more full of promise,” says Barton. “Her fiery, passionate nature is what is associated with a redheaded woman to this day.”
Of course, true redheads can attest that anything unusual can become a lightning rod for bullies (a colleague of mine was taunted with “Fanta pants” all through her Queensland childhood). Red attracts attention, helping make the epithet ‘ginger’ one of the last acceptable forms of minority taunting in a schoolyard.
But it is the hue’s very rarity that also makes red a hit among the fashion community. Art directors, photographers and designers love its vibrancy and clashiness. Independent art and design magazine MC1R, named after the gene that determines hair colour, is devoted entirely to red hair’s ‘specialness’. Redheads are represented even more on the runway and in editorials than in their natural habitat Scotland and Ireland, the land of fair-skinned Celts, where genuine, flame-coloured hair is concentrated. The Scots have the world’s highest proportion of redheads, at 13 per cent, followed by 10 per cent of the Irish population. True genetic redheads are a tiny two per cent of the global population (most redheads have brown or hazel eyes, making red hair and blue eyes the rarest of all hair and eye colour combinations).
When a redhead is born that way her tresses reveal her bloodline; when a woman chooses the colour of fire, her hair tells the world that she is truly ready for its gaze. With the global hair color market projected to reach US$29 billion by 2019, red colour sales already outstrip every other hue, occasionally reaching fever pitch, such as this season. Clearly women who find their natural colour too blah are more than ready to fake it – and that’s the real deal.
So you want to be a redhead? GOLDWELL AMBASSADOR NEIL BARTON SHARES HIS TOP TIPS
• There is a shade to suit everybody. Auburn and copper are great for brightening light eyes and suit medium skin tones. Women with darker skin should opt for deeper cherry red, while lighter skin tones suit rose gold or strawberry blonde.
• Prevent colour fade – red hair looks its best when bright and vibrant. Goldwell Kerasilk Shampoo, Conditioner and Treatment preserve colour brilliantly.
• Don’t over-wash, as this can strip colour and natural oils.
• Avoid heat tools, as they speed up fading. Or at least use heat-protection spray and colour-protection styling products.
• Get cutting-edge colour. The latest trend is a morphing technique with the Goldwell Reds range, using different pigments within a red, applying red violet or even yellow violet on the outer layer of the hair for a stunning 3D effect.
• Match colours with cuts. I love copper shades on long hair. Bright, bold reds work best with shorter cuts and geometric styles such as bobs.