I was introduced to Katie through a mutual redhead friend five years ago. Literally, the only reason we know each other is because we have an identical shade of bright orange hair.
Hitting it off, we ended up as roommates my senior year of college, and spent time together around campus, getting groceries, and exploring New York City. I cannot tell you how many times we were asked if we were sisters, something that was always hilarious to me as Katie was 6’2 to my 5’3 frame.
The kicker is, our ancestors weren’t even from the same country. Sure we both had red hair, but my family came from Ireland and Hungary, while she was first generation Italian-American.
Every St. Patrick’s Day, Katie was met with Irish jokes, her love of beer not helping her on that front. She’d laugh it off, along with the comparisons to Disney’s Brave, leprechauns, and more. She always noticed an expression of surprise when someone saw her very, very Italian last name.
Sure, Ireland chimes in with a whopping 10% of its population having an auburn hue, along with neighboring Scotland, but we’re not confined to that small spot on the map. We’re everywhere!
The red hair gene isn’t even technically from Ireland. Where did it start, you ask?
It started way back when in Central Asia, traveled to Northern Europe, and made its way down to the Celts (who also existed in France, by the way).
As evidenced by my three redheaded Dutch neighbors, the redhead gene is common in the Netherlands too. They even have their own redhead festival with thousands of us traveling to celebrate each year. Ditto with Italy, where 0.6% of Italians, usually from the northern region, are blessed with a slightly olive complexion and fiery red locks. In Russia, the region surrounding the Volga river has the densest population of redheads in the world outside of Ireland.
Red hair can also be found in parts of Northern Africa, with the current Queen of Morocco sporting naturally red locks. Even in Polynesia various shades of red can be found, with traditional culture often pointing to red hair as a symbol of high status.
Redheads are all over the world and have a rich, tumultuous history. Ancient Greeks wrote about us, Italian Renaissance painters immortalized us, and Shakespeare used us as (not always very flattering) symbols on stage.
Do you remember H2BAR did a post last year titled: These Stunning Photographs Showcase the Beauty of Redheads Around the World? A photographer, Brian Dowling, traveled to 130 countries and photographed redheads. Here are some of his photos:
So the next time you see a fellow redhead, find out where their ancestors are from. You might get a little lesson in redhead history!
Credit Source: Harvey, Jacky Colliss (9 June 2015). “Red: A History of the Redhead”. Hachette Books – via Google Books