Ah, the myth of Irish red hair. Although it is true there is a larger percentage of redheads in Ireland than anywhere else in the world, barring maybe Scotland, it is still only about 4%-10% of the population, depending on who you ask or what degree counts as a redhead. I myself have brown hair but when I grow my beard I become much more of a redhead. There is the ginger gene on both my parents sides, and I have quite a few fully red-headed cousins.
Unfortunately it was normally not prized on the emerald isle, or a few other places which is a shame. Red heads have been the butt of many jokes and insults, as have the Irish in general particularly in Britain and further afield. It’s lucky we have such a good sense of humor.
The Myth of Irish Red Hair
A lot of Irish find the stereotype of Irish red hair offensive, like they find leprechauns, thatched cottages, and an Irish jig offensive, which is a shame. Though very understandable as less than 10% of Irish people are ‘ginger’.
Red hair was often looked down upon by the Irish and English, partly because it was associated with the Danes and Vikings who invaded both countries around the 10th century.
Hollywood also helped nurture the myth, with any color film depicting Ireland in the 40s and 50s showing an island of mostly redheads. The classic “Irish Colleen” took center stage in many movies such as Maureen O’Hara in ‘A Quiet Man”. Maureen also helped to cement the myth that red heads have ‘fiery tempers’ in said movie.
Maureen O’Hara helped fuel the myth of Irish red hair and fiery tempers in ‘The Quiet Man’ when she played the lead alongside John Wayne.
The myth of the fiery red temper was also exploited by the British, as they worked to subjugate the Irish and keep them tame. Any propaganda and sentiment that might help with this was used.
Queen Elizabeth helped shift favor towards red hair and was copied by many noblewomen of the time. Though after her death, it reverted back.
The biggest disadvantage to being a redhead in my mind is the fact most burn so easily in the sun. I’ve lost count of the numbers of times I’ve heard “I’m not going out in the sun, not with my fair skin”.
Despite all this discrimination, prejudice and misfortune, there is a sizeable number of the worlds population who find red hair and fair skin and freckles very attractive and prized for it’s uniqueness and beauty. Red heads are an object of sexual desire for many.
In fact, the hair dye industry does a roaring trade in red hair dye, especially in countries like the States, as dark red hair is seen as classy and sophisticated.