Saturday, 18 February 2012

Image//Book Works//Blond(e) symbolism.

Insight and research into a different kind of "yellow"- blonde hair. Having blonde hair myself, it has always been highlighted as a novelty in my family (being the only one with naturally blonde hair, still in my adult years), though learning about the symbolism, cultural meanings and genealogy of blonde hair has always interested me- my own blonde hair, pale skin and blue eyes (in contrast to my brother's tanned skin and brunette hair, for instance, despite both having the same biological parents) being put down to Germanic heritage. Really interesting information below, and definitely a consideration for my design outcome- the developments of which can be found on my Design Practice blog.

Blond or blonde (see below) or fair-hair is a hair color characterized by low levels of the dark pigment eumelanin. The resultant visible hue depends on various factors, but always has some sort of yellowish color. The color can be from the very pale blond (caused by a patchy, scarce distribution of pigment) to reddish "strawberry" blond colors or golden-brownish ("sandy") blond colors (the latter with more eumelanin). On theFischer–Saller scale blond color ranges from A to J (blond brown).


Many sub-categories of blond hair have also been defined to describe someone with blond hair more accurately. Common examples include the following:
  •  blond/flaxen – when distinguished from other varieties, "blond" by itself refers to a light but not whitish blond with no traces of red, gold, or brown. This color is often described as "flaxen".
  •  yellow – yellow-blond ("yellow" can also be used to refer to hair which has been dyed yellow).
  • platinum blond or towheaded – whitish-blond; almost all platinum blonds are children. "Platinum blond" is often used to describe bleached hair, while "towheaded" generally refers to natural hair color.
  •  sandy blond – greyish-hazel or cream-colored blond.
  •  golden blond – a darker to rich, golden-yellow blond.
  •  strawberry blondVenetian blond or honey blond – a light or dark amberish golden blond.
  •  dirty blond or dishwater blond – dark blond with flecks of golden blond and brown.
  •  ash-blond – pale or grayish blond.
  •  bleached blondbottle blond, or peroxide blond – artificial blond slightly less white than platinum blond.

Evolution of blond hair

Natural lighter hair colors occur most often in Europe and less frequently in other areas. In northern European populations, the occurrence of blond hair is very frequent. The hair color gene MC1R has at least seven variants in Europe giving the continent a wide range of hair and eye shades. Based on recent genetic research carried out at three Japanese universities, the date of the genetic mutation that resulted in blond hair in Europe has been isolated to about 11,000 years ago during the last ice age.
A typical explanation found in the scientific literature for the evolution of light hair is related to the requirement for vitamin D synthesis and northern Europe's seasonal deficiency of sunlight. Lighter skin is due to a low concentration in pigmentation, thus allowing more sunlight to trigger the production of vitamin D. In this way, high frequencies of light hair in northern latitudes are a result of the light skin adaptation to lower levels of sunlight, which reduces the prevalence of rickets caused by vitamin D deficiency. The darker pigmentation at higher latitudes in certain ethnic groups such as the Inuit is explained by a greater proportion of seafood in their diet. As seafood is high in vitamin D, vitamin D deficiency would not create a selective pressure for lighter pigmentation in that population.

A theory propounded in The History and Geography of Human Genes (1994), says blond hair became predominant in Northern Europe beginning about 3,000 BC, in the area now known as Lithuania, among the recently arrived Proto-Indo-European settlers (according to the Kurgan hypothesis), and the trait spread quickly through sexual selection into Scandinavia. As above, the theory assumes that men found women with blond hair more attractive. An alternative hypothesis was presented by Canadian anthropologist Peter Frost, under the aegis of University of St Andrews, who published a study in March 2006 in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior. Frost said blond hair evolved very quickly in a specific area at the end of the last ice age by means of sexual selection. According to the study, the appearance of blond hair and blue eyes in some northern European women made them stand out from their rivals at a time of fierce competition for scarce males. The study argues that blond hair was produced higher in the Cro-Magnondescended population of the European region because of food shortages 10,000-11,000 years ago following the last glacial period when most of it was covered by steppe-tundra. Almost the only sustenance in northern Europe came from roaming herds of mammoths, reindeer, bison and horses and finding them required long, arduous hunting trips in which numerous males died, leading to a high ratio of surviving women to men. This hypothesis argues that women with blond hair posed an alternative that helped them mate and thus increased the number of blonds.

Geographic distribution

Blond hair is most frequently found among the populations of Northern Europe. The pigmentation of both hair and eyes is lightest around the Baltic Sea and their darkness increases regularly and almost concentrically around this region. A 2009 study found that light hair colors were already present in southern Siberia during the Bronze Age. Due to migration from Europe from the 16th to the 20th centuries, blonds are also found all around the world such as in North America, South America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa etc.

In Central Asia, the Middle East and South Asia, there is also a low frequency of natural blonds found among some ethnic populations. InPakistan, the Kalash tribe mostly have blond hair. In Afghanistan, blonds are particularly found among the Tajik (10% blond, especially in thePamir region), Nuristani people (related to the Kalash) who have a blond hair frequency of one in three. Blonde hair color can naturally occur even among other people from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan of Pakistan; this group includes Khowar people, Pashtuns,Kashmiris, Shina people, Burusho, and to a much lesser degree, Northern Punjabis.Generally, blond hair in Europeans is associated with lighter eye color (gray, blue, green and hazel) and light (sometimes freckled) skin tone. Strong sunlight also, on some people but not all, lightens hair of any pigmentation, to varying degrees, and causes many blond people to freckle, especially during childhood.
Blonds are also found in Turkey, especially in the northern (Caucasus) and western (European) parts of the country. Blonds are also found in parts of southwest and northern Iran, especially in the Caspian and Caucasus provinces. Blonds are also found in the Levant, Israel (especially among the Ashkenazi), in western Syria, in northern Iraq, and in the Palestinian territories. Jordan and Lebanon have a frequency of blonds as well. Blond hair is also a common sight among Berbers of North Africa, especially in the Rif and Kabyle region and also among Maghreb Arabs of Berber descent.
Aboriginal Australians, especially in the west-central parts of the continent, have a high frequency of natural blond-to-brown hair, with as many as 90–100% of children having blond hair in some areas. The trait among Indigenous Australians is primarily associated with children. In maturity the hair usually turns a darker brown color, but sometimes remains blond. Blondness is also found in some other parts of the South Pacific, such as the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Fiji, again with higher incidences in children. Blondness was also reported among indigenous peoples in South America known as Cloud People or Chachapoyas. There can be blond hair among Peruvian mestizos of mixed Cloud People and Spanish and/or other European descent.
Natural blonde hair is more common among young children than adults, as blonde hair usually darkens to a brunette shade with age. Natural blonde hair is rare in adulthood, with some reports that only about 7% of the world's population is naturally blonde.

Relation to age

Blond hair is most common in Caucasian infants and children, so much so that the term "baby blond" is often used for very light colored hair. Babies may be born with blond hair even among groups where adults rarely have blond hair although such natural hair usually falls out quickly. Blond hair tends to turn darker with age, and many children's blond hair turns light, medium, dark brown or black before or during their adult years. As blond hair tends to turn brunette with age, natural blonde hair is rare and makes up approximately 2% of the world's population.

Folklore and mythology

Southern Europe

The Greek gods are attested varying in their appearances. While Poseidon was described as having a blue-black beard, and Zeus blue-black eyebrows, Pindar described Athena as fair-haired, and Pheidas described her as golden-haired. Hera, Apollo and Aphrodite were also described as blonds. Pindar collectively described the Homeric Danaans of the time of the war between Argos and Thebes as fair-haired. The Spartans are described as fair-haired by Bacchylides. In the work of Homer, Menelaus the king of the Spartans is, together with other Achaean leaders, portrayed as blond. Although dark hair colours were predominant in the works of Homer, there is only one case of a dark hero, and that is when the blond Odysseus is transformed by Athena and his beard becomes blue-black. Other blond characters in Homer are Peleus, Achilles, Meleager, Agamede, and Rhadamanthys.

According to Victoria Sherrow, Romans preferred to dye their hair dark in the early period of Ancient Rome; at one point in time blond hair was even associated with prostitutes. The preference changed to bleaching the hair blond when Greek culture, which practiced bleaching, reached Rome, and was reinforced when the legions that conquered Gaul returned with blond slaves. According to Francis Owens Roman literary records describe a very large number of well-known Roman historical personalities as blond. In addition, 250 individuals are recorded to have had the name Flavius, meaning blond, and there are many named Rufus and Rutilius, meaning red haired and reddish-haired, respectively. The following Roman gods are said to have had blond hair: Amor, Apollo, Aurora, Bacchus, Ceres,Diana, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Minerva and Venus. For example, the physical appearance of Emperor Nero, descended from an aristocratic family, is by the historian Suetonius described as: "... his hair light blond,... his eyes blue..."

Northern Europe

In Northern European folklore, supernatural beings value blonde hair in humans. Blonde babies are more likely to be stolen and replaced withchangelings, and young blonde women are more likely to be lured away to the land of the beings. Elves and fairies were often portrayed with blond hair in illustrations in children's book of fairy tales. This continues the theme that blond hair is associated with beauty and goodness.In Norse mythology, the goddess Sif has famously blonde hair, which some scholars have identified as representing golden wheat. In thePoetic Edda poem Rígsþula, the blond man Jarl is considered to be the ancestor of the dominant warrior class.

Blonds in fiction

In Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote, the ideal beauty is Dulcinea whose "hairs are gold"; in Milton's poem Paradise Lost the noble and innocentAdam and Eve have "golden tresses", the protagonist-womanizer in Guy de Maupassant's novel Bel Ami who "recalled the hero of the popular romances" has "slightly reddish chestnut blond hair", while near the end of J. R. R. Tolkien's work The Lord of the Rings, the especially favorable year following the War of the Ring was signified in the Shire by an exceptional number of blonde-haired children.

Contemporary popular culture

In science fiction, nordic aliens are described as human-looking with blond hair and blue eyes, hence the name 'nordic'. They are benign, following the association of blond hair with beauty and goodness in European folklore and mythology. In contemporary popular culture, it is often stereotyped that men find blond women more attractive than women with other hair colors. For example, Anita Loos popularized this idea in her 1925 novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Blondes are often assumed to have more fun, for example in a Clairol commercial for hair colorant they use the phrase "Is it true blondes have more fun?" Some women have reported after lightening their hair they feel other people expect them to be more fun-loving. The "blonde stereotype" is also associated with being less serious or less intelligent. This can be seen in blonde jokes. It is believed the originator of the "dumb blonde" was an 18th century blonde French prostitute named Rosalie Duthe whose reputation of being beautiful but dumb inspired a play about her called Les Curiosites de la Foire (Paris 1775). Blonde actresses have supported this role; some of them include Marilyn Monroe, Judy Holliday,Jayne Mansfield, and Goldie Hawn during her time at Laugh-In. Alfred Hitchcock preferred to cast blonde women for major roles in his films as he believed that the audience would suspect them the least, comparing them to "virgin snow that shows up the bloody footprints", hence the term "Hitchcock blonde". This stereotype has become so ingrained it has spawned counter-narratives, such as in the 2001 film Legally Blonde in which Reese Witherspoon succeeds at Harvard despite biases against her beauty and blonde hair, and terms developed such as cookie cutter blond (CCB), implying standardized blond looks and standard perceived social and intelligence characteristics of a blond. Many actors and actresses in Mestizo America and Hispanic United States seem to have Nordic features—blond hair, blue eyes, and pale skin.

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