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Changing your hair color? Which way should you go?
Most of us women experiment with hair color at one time or another, and this is not a new phenomenon; women have been changing hair color for centuries. Ancient Egyptians dyed their hair with henna because they believed it made them more glamorous and seductive. European women wore colored and powdered wigs to express their moods as well as their stations in life.
Why do we do it? For many of us changing our hair color – something that we can control – signals that we want to change our lives – which we often cannot. And we know that, for good or for bad, a first impression happens within mere seconds, and often such decisions begin with physical attributes like size, eye and hair color.
In making these first impressions we tend to fall back on long-held stereotypes. We categorize blondes as ditzy, dumb or sexy. We equate brunettes with sophistication and intelligence. We assume redheads are hot tempered or complex. But where did those stereotypes come from and how true are they?
Hollywood must take some blame for the “dumb blonde” stereotype. In the 40’s a lot of starlets trying to get noticed bleached their hair blonde. The technique often worked, garnering them the attention they sought from casting directors. The problem was that many of them were cast in bit parts, typically either a “sex siren” or the “comic relief.” Even when their roles eventually expanded, one thing remained the same – a kind of naive innocence which somehow got translated into “dumb.” Hence the concept “dumb blonde.”
Ironically, going blonde was a smart move for many of these actresses! Marilyn Monroe parlayed her blonde ambition into a monumental career, and remains a inspiring icon for actresses like Pamela Anderson. Goldie Hawn started her career playing the ditzy blonde but quickly proved that there was an incredibly sharp brain behind that funny exterior. Her daughter, Kate Hudson, appears to be every bit as sharp as mom, making careful choices that move her career forward and do not pigeonhole her as a one-note wonder. Nor is there anything “dumb” about their blonde sisters like Nicole Kidman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rene Zellwegger, Scarlett Johannsen, and Madonna.
If the “blondes are dumb” stereotype has no scientific support, the same cannot be said of that other cliché, “blondes have more fun.” In my own scientific research for this article, I polled the men in my family, my friends, and the neighborhood. I talked with in excess of 50 men, and 55% stated that they were more attracted to blondes. Of that percentage, more than 80% also stated that they preferred blue eyes. Evolutionary theory would explain this by pointing out that both blonde hair and blue eyes are correlated with youth, and men are attracted to the fertility associated with youth. Whatever the reasons, blondes certainly seem in line for a lot of fun!
So if blondes are dumb, are brunettes any smarter? Although on an individual level there is no correlation of intelligence and hair color, there are a lot more smart brunettes in the world than smart blondes, for the simple reason of volume – there are many more brunettes than there are blondes. This is because the blonde gene is recessive, and some claim it will eventually become extinct. That is, of course, excludes blondes that that come out of a bottle!
Brunettes are experiencing a surge in popularity at the moment. Many of Hollywood’s hottest blondes have taken a darker turn: Charlize Theron, Cameron Diaz, Jessica Simpson, and Sienna Miller. Some initially changed their hair color for a specific role, but some have seemed to buy into the new persona they created, believing it would get them more substantial film roles. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Jessica Alba was definitely taken more seriously in her critically-acclaimed role as the dark haired beauty she played on television’s Dark Angel. In contrast, her blonde Invisible Girl in the recent Fantastic Four sequel was panned. On the other hand Drew Barrymore seems to do well no matter what color of hair she sports.
Going back to my poll of male preferences, 40% of my sample prefer brunettes to blondes or red heads. They were split on eye color, though. Brown edged out blue slightly, but green and hazel also made good showings.
Most people equate redheads to hot tempers. However, the most famous redhead of all time, Lucille Ball, was actually well known for her even-tempered disposition. Even Hollywood’s famous redheads Julianne Moore, Rene Russo, Debra Messing, Nicole Kidman, and Julia Roberts have much less of a diva reputation than many of their blonde and brunette sisters.
Being a redhead myself, I have to say we have the best of both worlds. We benefit from the same kind of “sexy” image that blondes boast, while still being thought of as intelligent, like our brunette counterparts. Additionally, we have the benefit of being in the minority, which makes us a little more sought after and gives us a certain aura of mystique. Men often find that alluring, which gives us a decided advantage.
While only 5% of the men I polled stated a preference for redheads, I didn’t take offense, particularly since many of them (in my view, wrongly) categorized the strawberry blonde as a blonde, and not (as she should be) on the red side of the fence. I wasn’t surprised that the men who like redheads also wanted green or hazel eyes, as they seem to go together in the minds of a lot of people.
So who has more fun: blondes, brunettes, or redheads? The truth doesn’t really lie in the hair color. It lies within the woman. If dying your hair brunette makes you “feel” more sophisticated or intelligent, then that is the persona you are going to take on. If bleaching your hair blonde makes you feel sexier, wilder, or heaven forbid dumber, then that is the persona you will embrace. The truth of how much fun you have in life lies deep within you, and how you bring that “fun” girl out to play!