22nd March, 2013
Beards are big business at the moment. The fact that Hollywood stars like George Clooney and Ben Affleck have now taken a beard mean it’s never been a better time to grow one – not to mention the ever-growing availability of male grooming products. But increasingly people have been finding that when they try to grow a beard, the effect is a scraggly red mess. Nobody seems to know why but some people grow red beards when they have brown, or even blonde hair. Why does this happen and who actually cares?
If you have recently discovered a red hair on your chin, do not worry about it, it’s perfectly normal. Don’t feel the need to immediately consult your doctor. Your hair is not sunburned. You might want to shave it off if you think it looks bad but your outlook on life and the way you feel about yourself shouldn’t change in any major way.
We have an unhealthy attitude towards ginger hair, but it’s not the fact that the beards are ginger that people find so distressing. Most of those with beards are too old to be mean about red hair. If they are still only eight years old and find insulting redheads amusing, then they should be really careful about making fun of people for having weird hair growing out of their heads. People in glass houses should not throw stones. Generally, people undergoing the Bred-Beard phenomenon (nobody should call it that) are put off by two main factors:
1. People just don’t like change – it’s only natural. If you’re used to having brown hair then you will be slightly taken aback when you start sprouting hairs of any different colour. Even if it was a cool colour, like blonde or purple. You wouldn’t like it because humans are predetermined to hate any change.
2. Men generally want to maintain a single consistent colour throughout their hair. Of course, some men are prone to natural or even intentional highlighting, but this two tone brown-red style is too much of a leap for most.
Remember that many people have no problem at all with the brown hair and red beard complexion – and more power to them. One man I interviewed, who asked to remain anonymous, claimed to be proud of this combo, citing the two-tone aspect mentioned above. “I really like it,” he told me, “it’s a bit of fun and I like being two-toned – it looks like a Red Panda or the Barcelona shirt.” So you don’t have to feel bad for people with red beards.
But the key thing that we want to know is why do some men have brown hair and red beards?
Most people seem to agree that the reason is genetics.
This might seem like a lazy, catch-all explanation, but that’s only because it is. You can really use that to explain away anything. It’s more an excuse for not having an answer than an answer in itself. But it also seems that just saying it’s because of genetics has been enough to persuade most people to investigate no further and to just meekly put up with the unexplained red additions to their faces.
But not me. I don’t have a beard.
Also, I looked a little bit further into it and found a couple of plausible explanations that help to elaborate on the genetics reasoning:
1. The Vikings – The Red beard or Barbarossa trait is a result of Viking blood. When the pesky Vikings invaded the British Isles they brought their red hair and red beards with them. The red beard part stuck with people even in cases where the head hair was rejected.
Plausibility rating: Conjecture.
2. Genetic Co-Dominance – This is when a single gene has more than one dominant allele. An individual who is heterozygous for two co-dominant alleles will express the phenotypes associated with both alleles. So you can have some red hair and some brown hair going on. Plausibility rating: Too complicated.
So neither of these is alone a truly plausible reason, but I reckon if we combine them somehow we can understand the situation. A combination of science and Vikings explains why some people have brown hair but red beards.
I’m really not an expert, though. I’m just a maverick, writing a blog on what’s currently trending, who isn’t afraid to ask the questions that nobody else cares about.