Earlier this week, I was in the comments section of a blog I frequent, and someone had posted a photo of a shirtless, young guy with red hair sticking his tongue out cheekily. People were asking who he was, but no one knew. Then a press release for a new book lands in my inbox, and there he is on the cover. RED HOT 100 is a coffee table book following on an exhibition of stills and video celebrating red-haired male beauty, with the hopes of rebranding the image of the male ginger, which often comes with negative stereotypes attached. I thought it might be nice for the man behind the concept, Thomas Knights, a natural redhead himself, to know that the posting of his cover model on that blog inspired other readers - men and women - to contribute photos of their own favourite hot, red-haired men. (Hello....Michael Fassbender and Ewan McGregor? Yes, both natural gingers.) When I left the thread it was about a dozen deep, and all of the comments were positive.
Knights (pictured right), a fashion photographer and music video director with an accomplished portfolio featuring work in Vogue Italia, Dazed and Confused and Marie Claire, experienced these negative perceptions growing up, and with no red-haired male public role models to persuade him otherwise, he felt ashamed of his red roots. He devised his video and photography concept to redefine the image of the red-headed male. Knight explains, "We have been conditioned to think ginger men are ugly and weak. I wanted to flip this on its head and present the redheaded male as the ultimate alpha male."
The book's press release refers to Western culture's tendency to put the ginger female on a pedestal (we're all familiar with the fantasy of the foxy redhead), leaving their male counterparts out of the limelight. No other hair colour experiences a gender inequality in the same way. Just a couple of years ago, not a single London agency had a red-haired male model on their books, and red-haired actors were extremely underrepresented in TV and film. However, with the popularity of the RED HOT campaign and celebrity ambassadors like Prince Harry, Damian Lewis and Eddie Redmayne, public opinion does seem to be changing. (Let's hope so. Back in 2008 I wrote a piece in response to a rise in 'gingerism', you can read it here.)
RED HOT 100 is available to buy in hardback for £49.99 at redhot100.com, as well as Conran Shop and Amazon.
RED HOT is proud to work with the Anti-Bullying Alliance which works to reduce bullying and create safer environments in which children and young people can grow, play, and learn; and The Diana Award, a charity set up as a legacy to Princess Diana to encourage, empower and engage young people from all walks of life.