Why being ginger is the best and worst thing that ever happened to you

Red, auburn, strawberry-blonde, or ginger, call it what you will. One thing we know is that it sets you apart from the majority of society. Ginger people get a lot of stick and this is widely accepted as perfectly ok, with jokes abounding about ginger step-children and adoption, often in mainstream media. No ginger-haired person can be famous or successful without attention being drawn to their hair colour, generally in a negative sense. But it can't be all bad, and we're here to take a look at why it might be the best, as well as the worst, thing that can happen to you.

You can be an object of marvel (and fear) abroad

Given its rareness, many people of the world have never seen a person with genuine ginger hair. Travel to Africa, Asia and many other parts of the world and you can often experience stares of wonderment and people wanting to touch the auburn locks to see if they are in fact real. In other parts of the world, gingers are also associated with stereotypes only otherwise linked with axe-wielding, wild-eyed celts. Combined with a well-practiced crazy-stare, ginger hair could certainly help you get out of a few scrapes.

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You have an actual hair colour

Black isn't really a colour, brown is boring and blonde is only really interesting if it's really blonde. You, on the other hand, have a primary colour shooting out the top of your head. It's really quite incredible. If, by a quirk of evolution, it happened to be purple, you would be known as “purps,” but it would be just as weird and wonderful as having ginger hair. Show it off, good man.

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You are one in a million (nearly)

You are a serious minority, globally-speaking, and this of course makes you special. Embrace this. Although you may not feel particularly special in Dundee, consider that only around one per cent of the human race is red-headed. This includes every shade up to “strawberry blonde,” which die-hard gingers may not even consider to be truly ginger.

Your pubic hair is a source of joy for your friends

No ginger-haired male has gone through adolescence without being invited to "get his pubes out" for the amusement of his friends or classmates. There's something inexplicably thrilling for a teenage boy about ginger pubic hair, but try not to see this negatively. It's not everyone who is able to bring such joy to so many people so easily.

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You (generally) know where you come from

The vast majority of ginger people in the world originate from the northern and western fringes of Europe, but particularly Scotland and Ireland. Because the ginger gene is a recessive one it probably means a good number of your ancestors were from these parts as well. The US actually has many more gingers than these two countries, but most are of descendants of Scottish or Irish immigrants.

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Part of the gang

Being part of an exclusive group means you may have a natural affinity with other gingers. You are part of a tribe and it can feel good to know there aren't too many many members. It could be the ice-breaker you're looking for to approach a person you like the look of, or simply any kind of introduction to a fellow ginge.

You're not going anywhere

Contrary to popular belief, gingers aren't becoming extinct. Although the “ginger gene” is recessive and less ginger people may exist in the future, the potential for gingerness will still be very much out there as there will still be plenty of carriers of the gene. Nearly 50 per cent of Irish people carry the gene, for one.

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You don't tan

Ginger hair is indelibly linked to pasty skin, so even the most innocently clear day means slapping on layer after layer of sunscreen. Forget once and you'll go lobster red and be yet another source of amusement for your swarthier friends. But although very white skin is almost a fashion faux pas in these tan-obsessed days, bear in mind that it was very much the opposite in times gone by, when the lightest skin tones were the most desirable. Your time will come again.

Your nicknames are crap

“Carrot-top,” “carrot-head” and the ubiquitous “ginger” seem to be as far as most people will go when thinking of a nickname for their red-headed friends. Even if your friends overcome this kind of laziness, nine times out of ten your nickname will still be based on your hair colour. You will never be a “Maverick” or a “T-bone” if you've got ginger hair.

Society says teasing you is ok

Apparently it's not ok to make fun of someone for something they can't help – think different races, disabled, sexual orientation etc. Society has slowly evolved to frown on the persecution of the above demographics, but it's still open season on gingers. Will future generations look back at our wanton teasing of ginger people with disgust? Quite possibly. Blaze a trail of tolerance by frowning on “gingerism” in all its forms.

Your hair-crimes are readily solvable

Ginger pube on the bar of communal soap? You're not getting away with that one if you're the only ginger in the house. Rogue strand in the spag bol? Same applies. Your individuality is your undoing in cases like these, so you have to be constantly on guard for “the one that got away.”

The sun might kill you

The pasty white skin that is all-too-common with gingers means your defences against the sun's harmful UV rays are weak. Melanoma – or skin cancer – is more likely for you than your darker brethren if you don't take precautions while in the sun. Keep slapping on the cream, or cower inside while the hot, midday sun shines.

You are in low demand

The public gets what the public wants, and apparently it doesn't want gingers. In 2011 the Denmark-based international sperm bank Cryos said it wasn't taking any more “donations” from ginger-haired chaps. Apparently there was no demand and they already had 70 litres of ginger sperm in reserve. “We are drowning in (ginger) semen,” said the director of the company at the time. Quite an image.

Things aren't made for you

Ginger women often complain about not being able to wear certain clothes and colours because of their hair colour and complexion. As a ginger, you have to accept this is just the way things are. Many make-up products are also similarly criticised as not being suitable for ginger (and pale) complexions, particularly in these tan-tastic days.

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There are exceptions to the rules

Believe it or not, people with naturally ginger hair are also found in parts of China and Papua New Guinea. This is the result of genuine genetic mutation rather than randy ginger colonialists, so many of the stereotypes do not apply to all gingers – particularly the pasty skin one. In Papua New Guinea ginger hair is also seen as a sign that you are descended from greatness – something a victimised UK ginger would do well to remember.

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About the Author

Robert Macintosh is a full-time journalist based in Northern Ireland. He has accumulated eight years’ experience since 2005, writing for magazines, newspapers and websites in various countries. Macintosh has specialised in politics and entertainment. He has an honours degree in social anthropology, an NVQ level 4 in newspaper journalism and an AS Level in photography.