FANNING THE FLAME
AS THE RED HOT EXHIBITION LAUNCHES IN LONDON TO CELEBRATE RED-HAIRED GUYS, COLIN GENTRY EXPLORES WHY GINGERS HAVE THE UNCANNY ABILITY TO TOTALLY TURN US ON – AND OFF.
“Think how few leading men there are in Hollywood who are proudly ginger. Would the public accept a ginger action hero?” muses acclaimed photographer Thomas Knights. As creator of a new exhibition showcasing redhaired talent, he has a point. Wolverine, Batman and Captain America are all brunette. Yet in the real world, gingers are the mutants of society, both adored and abhorred like their comic book counterparts.
Red hair appears in people with two copies of a recessive gene that results in a mutation in the MC1R protein. Though it has the power to attract, red hair (particularly in men) has the Kryptonite-like ability to repel, and it is this dual sword that our flame-haired brothers have to wield and wage battle with. It is believed just two per cent of the world’s population has ginger hair. There is a European bias: Scotland has the highest population of redheads, with 13 per cent watching over the highlands. Redheads remain a global phenomenon, though, and one under threat from arch enemies social stigma and science. National Geographic claims that evolution could overcome this genetic flourish in just 100 years time, but it appears red hair has developed some surprising defense mechanisms to protect its small numbers. Various research has produced findings that report redheads have a higher pain threshold, withstanding 25 percent more electric shocks than their fair-headed friends. Redheads can also handle hot objects better and require more anesthetic to be knocked out. Such superhuman abilities have not, however, stopped redheads from overcoming stigma or improved their chances in the dating game.
When it comes to meeting a man, there is the misconception that we all want tall, dark and handsome, but some of us prefer our guys to come with a bit of colour. Personality is what matters most, of course, and the names for
Gingers are the mutants of society, both adored and abhorred like their comic book counterparts.
red hair certainly have that, ranging from the complimentary (strawberry blond, auburn, biscuit) to the derogatory (ranga, ginga, carrot top). Red hair is commonly partnered with a light skin tone and lighter coloured eyes. It is this tidy package that gets some of us hot under the collar, and others turning their backs. British photographer Thomas Knights’ exhibition, Red Hot, showcases some of the hottest red-haired boys around the world, from guys next door to Olympic athletes and porn stars. They are more than just eye candy, though. Many of the models tell a tale of a difficult relationship with their red hair, and have allowed their mask to slip for the camera. “I’m hoping people who might initially come to look at the hot men will leave with a greater awareness of the personal journeys and struggles with identity many of the guys featured went through to have the confidence to be photographed in this way,” says Thomas. Having partnered with the Anti-Bullying Alliance, the exhibition aims to celebrate the stigmatised hair colour and help prevent its demonisation. “I would love the public to go away with an altered perspective of red-headed men, and an awareness that there is a problem with our current attitudes.” s
Knights declares, “My ultimate aim is to set in motion change in the media and to create a movement that might see ginger men represented more positively in film, TV and literature.” We may not have a ginger action hero on our screens just yet, but Red Hot is evidence there are already ginger crusaders on our streets – no capes necessary.
more: The Red Hot exhibition premiers at The Gallery in London 16 to 22 December. Visit facebook.com/redhotexhibition.