Sunday, August 23, 2009

Vogue A Flame

It's been awhile since I've done one of these - but it was so good, I just couldn't resist! Enjoy!
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Last Updated: 12:01am BST 06/08/2008

After centuries in the cold, redheads are suddenly a hot commodity, says Hannah Betts
Notice anything curious about the cover of September's Vogue? Beautiful girl, check; Prada frock, tick; enthusiastic lipstick scrawl singing "Glorious!" So far, so Condé Nast. And then comes the realization: Mother of God, the beautiful girl in question has red hair and is thus - according to the savage logic of the playground - a "ginger nut" or a "Duracell". She's a "carrot top".
Flaming heck: Karen Elson is only the seventh redhead to grace the cover of Vogue

Seeing red at redheads has been cited as Britain's last socially acceptable form of bigotry - and not without foundation. Even the ravishing Karen Elson, the beauty who graces the magazine's frontage, was known as "Le Freak" on entering the industry, and "fake model" at school where her peers were incredulous that she could earn money from her appearance.

Statistics from Vogue House confirm that this is only the seventh occasion a woman with russet hair has graced its cover since 1970. Despite the need for Italian Vogue's consciousness-raising all-black issue this July, there have still been more British Vogue covers featuring black women than Titian-haired ones. Yet red-headed people make up between four and 13 per cent of the population - depending upon where one looks in the United Kingdom - while the black population hovers at just under two per cent.

Alexandra Shulman's editor's letter smacks somewhat of justification. She notes that Elson's "pale beauty and flaming hair make her a vivid figurehead for this distinctive season"; surely the fashion equivalent of getting to play a tree in an autumnal school play.

Evolutionary psychology suggests that gingers are shunned because they are a minority - pack mentality dictating that those who are different should be ostracised. Despite red hair being a staple of children's fiction - Anne of Green Gables, Pippi Longstocking, Little Orphan Annie - historically it has been perceived as diabolical. Judas Iscariot, Mary Magdalene and Salome have all been depicted as carrot tops, while the pairing of red hair and green eyes was thought to denote a witch, werewolf, or vampire.

advertisementIt's unsurprising, then, that for every proud flame-thrower - a Tilda Swinton, Julianne Moore, or Gillian Anderson - there is a Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Kidman or Geri Halliwell itching to douse their locks with peroxide.

The Celtic Tudors may have fostered a century-long trend for strawberry blonde tresses. However, our own Prince Harry was picked on for his colouring at school, and has been over-looked in the swoon stakes - despite being considerably better looking than the heir to which he is spare.

That said, he has obviously fared better than the Chapmans, the Newcastle family who found fame in 2007 for being forced to relocate three times in three years because of their colouring - provoking the local council to suggest they take to the (L'Oréal) bottle. Despite a proud legacy that numbers Boudicca, Oliver Cromwell, and Winston Churchill as fellow members, comedian Catherine Tate's sketch in which ginger outcasts are forced to seek solace in a refuge would appear to be not far from the mark.

The red-headed reputation for being hot-tempered and hypersensitive to pain may be because they get such a raw deal. By comparison, blondes - Vogue's preferred colour for its cover girls - are thought to be attractive because they resemble children. Hair darkens as we hit puberty, thus fairness is associated with innocence, the tow-haired vulnerability of youth. And, where there is vulnerability, so there will be those that seek to exploit it, viz Alfred Hitchock's remark: "Blondes make the best victims. They're like virgin snow that shows up the bloody footprints." If this is the kind of fun that blondes get to have more of, then there are many of us who will be entirely happy chugging along under a cloud of murky, sludgy brown.

For where redheads get to be the victimised minority, and blondes life's attention seekers, so brunettes boast locks that qualify them as normal human beings.
Last week, it was reported that a survey of 3,000 women by colourists Schwarzkopf & Henkel found that, on average, brunettes earn £4,250 more per annum than golden girls. It also found that those with chestnut tresses are 10 per cent more sexually successful than blondes. And they have featured on more Vogue covers than one might expect: the blonde-brunette cover-girl ratio being a mere 60:40 over the last 40 years.

And so to the burning issue: will Elson's immortalisation prompt a rash of imitators? For the truly voguish mane, will red indeed be on fire this season? Certainly, Bottega Veneta, Chloé, Celine, Sisley, Tiffany and Miu Miu's new autumn campaigns all feature flaming heroines. But those tempted may wish to consider further Schwarzkopf & Henkel research. While red is the hue that the majority of colour chameleons initially opt to embrace, the brand also discovered that it is the shade they ditch the fastest, after an average of merely two years. Still, that's a few seasons longer than most fashion trends.

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