Blond (male), blonde (female), 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 or golden-brownish ("sandy") blond colors (the
latter with more eumelanin). Because hair color tends to darken with
age, natural blond hair is generally very rare in adulthood.
Naturally-occurring blond hair is primarily found in populations of
northern European descent and is believed to have evolved to enable
more efficient synthesis of Vitamin D, due to northern Europe's lower
levels of sunlight.
Blond hair has also developed in other
populations, although it is usually not as common, and can be found
among natives of the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Fiji, among the
Berbers of North Africa, and among some Asians.
In human culture, blond hair has long been associated with female
beauty. Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, was reputed
to have blond hair. In ancient Greece and Rome, blond hair was
frequently associated with prostitutes, who dyed their hair using
saffron dyes in order to attract customers. The Greeks stereotyped
Thracians and slaves as blond and the Romans associated blondness with
Celts and the Germans to the north. In western
Europe during the
Middle Ages, long, blond hair was idealized as the paragon of female
beauty. The Norse goddess
Sif and the medieval heroine
both significantly portrayed as blond and, in medieval artwork, Eve,
Mary Magdalene, and the Virgin Mary are often shown with blond hair.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, scientific racists
categorized blond hair and blue eyes as characteristics of the supreme
Nordic race. In contemporary culture, blond women are often
stereotyped as sexually attractive, but unintelligent.
1 Etymology, spelling, and grammar
1.1 Origins and meanings
3 Evolution of blond hair
5 Historical cultural perceptions
5.1 Ancient Greece
5.2 Roman Empire
5.3 Medieval Europe
5.4 Early twentieth-century racism
6 Modern cultural associations
6.2 Lack of intelligence
7 See also
9 External links
Etymology, spelling, and grammar
Detail of a portrait of Crown Prince of Poland
Sigismund Casimir Vasa
(c. 1644), with characteristic blond hair which darkened with time as
confirmed by his later effigies.
Origins and meanings
The word "blond" is first documented in English in 1481 and derives
Old French blund, blont, meaning "a colour midway between golden
and light chestnut". It gradually eclipsed the native term "fair",
of same meaning, from Old English fæġer, causing "fair" later to
become a general term for "light complexioned". This earlier use of
"fair" survives in the proper name Fairfax, from Old English
fæġer-feahs meaning "blond hair".
The French (and thus also the derived English) word "blond" has two
possible origins. Some linguists say it comes from
Medieval Latin blundus, meaning "yellow", from
Old Frankish blund
which would relate it to Old English blonden-feax meaning
"grey-haired", from blondan/blandan meaning "to mix" (Cf. blend).
Also, Old English beblonden meant "dyed", as ancient Germanic warriors
were noted for dyeing their hair. However, linguists who favor a Latin
origin for the word say that
Medieval Latin blundus was a vulgar
pronunciation of Latin flavus, also meaning "yellow". Most
authorities, especially French, attest the Frankish origin. The word
was reintroduced into English in the 17th century from French, and was
for some time considered French; in French, "blonde" is a feminine
adjective; it describes a woman with blonde hair.
Pedro II of Brazil
Pedro II of Brazil with blond hair, c. 1846
"Blond", with its continued gender-varied usage, is one of few
adjectives in written English to retain separate masculine and
feminine grammatical genders. Each of the two forms, however, is
pronounced identically. American Heritage's Book of English Usage
propounds that, insofar as "a blonde" can be used to describe a woman
but not a man who is merely said to possess blond(e) hair, the term is
an example of a "sexist stereotype [whereby] women are primarily
defined by their physical characteristics." The Oxford English
Dictionary (OED) records that the phrase "big blond beast" was used in
the 20th century to refer specifically to men "of the Nordic type"
(that is to say, blond-haired). The OED also records that blond as
an adjective is especially used with reference to women, in which case
it is likely to be spelt "blonde", citing three Victorian usages of
the term. The masculine version is used in the plural, in "blonds of
the European race", in a citation from 1833 Penny cyclopedia, which
distinguishes genuine blondness as a Caucasian feature distinct from
By the early 1990s, "blonde moment" or being a "dumb blonde" had come
into common parlance to mean "an instance of a person, esp. a woman...
being foolish or scatter-brained." Another hair color word of
French origin, brunet(te) (from the same Germanic root that gave
"brown"), functions in the same way in orthodox English. The OED gives
"brunet" as meaning "dark-complexioned" or a "dark-complexioned
person", citing a comparative usage of brunet and blond to Thomas
Henry Huxley in saying, "The present contrast of blonds and brunets
existed among them." "Brunette" can be used, however, like
"blonde", to describe a mixed-gender populace. The OED quotes Grant
Allen, "The nation which resulted... being sometimes blonde, sometimes
"Blond" and "blonde" are also occasionally used to refer to objects
that have a color reminiscent of fair hair. For example, the OED
records its use in 19th-century poetic diction to describe flowers, "a
variety of clay ironstone of the coal measures", "the colour of raw
silk", a breed of ray, lager beer, and pale wood.
Various subcategories of blond hair have been defined to describe the
different shades and sources of the hair color more accurately. Common
examples include the following:
Blondes of different shades at WTMD's First Thursday series in Canton,
Baltimore, Maryland, United States, in June 2014
ash-blond: ashen or grayish blond.
bleached blond, bottle blond, or peroxide blond: terms used to
refer to artificially colored blond hair.
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
dirty blond or dishwater blond: dark blond with flecks of
golden blond and brown.
golden blond: a darker to rich, golden-yellow blond (found mostly in
Northeastern Europe, i.e., Russia, Estonia).
honey blond: dark iridescent blond.
platinum blond or towheaded: whitish-blond; almost all
platinum blonds are children, although it is found on people in
Northern Europe. "Platinum blond" is often used to describe bleached
hair, while "towheaded" generally refers to natural hair
sandy blond: grayish-hazel or cream-colored blond.
strawberry blond or Venetian blond: reddish
yellow: yellow-blond ("yellow" can also be used to refer to hair
which has been dyed yellow).
A woman with long blonde hair
A young man with light blond hair
A woman with long blonde hair from behind
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.[clarification needed] 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 a 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 evolution of light skin, and
in turn the requirement for vitamin D synthesis and northern Europe's
seasonal less solar radiation. 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 solar radiation, which reduces the prevalence of
rickets caused by vitamin D deficiency. The darker pigmentation at
higher latitudes in certain ethnic groups such as the
explained by a greater proportion of seafood in their diet and by the
climate which they live in, because in the polar climate there is more
ice or snow on the ground, and this reflects the solar radiation onto
the skin, making this environment lack the conditions for the person
to have blond, brown or red hair, light skin and blue, grey or green
An alternative hypothesis was presented by Canadian anthropologist
Peter Frost, who claims blond hair evolved very quickly in a specific
area at the end of the last ice age by means of sexual selection.
According to Frost, the appearance of blond hair and blue eyes in some
northern European women made them stand out from their rivals, and
more sexually appealing to men, at a time of fierce competition for
Recent archaeological and genetic study published in 2014 found that
seven "Scandinavian hunter-gatherers" found in the 7,700-year-old
Motala archaeological site in southern
Sweden had both light skin gene
SLC24A5 and SLC45A2, and that they had a third gene,
HERC2/OCA2, which causes blue eyes and also contributes to lighter
skin and blond hair. Genetic research published in 2014 and 2015
also indicates that Yamnaya Proto-Indo-Europeans who migrated to
Europe in the
Bronze Age were overwhelmingly dark-eyed (brown),
dark-haired and had a skin colour that was moderately light, though
somewhat darker than that of the average modern European. Light
pigmentation traits had already existed in pre-Indo-European Europeans
(both farmers and hunter-gatherers), and long-standing philological
attempts to correlate them with the arrival of Indo-Europeans from the
steppes were misguided.
It is now hypothesized by researchers that blond hair evolved more
than once. Published in May 2012 in Science, a study of people from
Solomon Islands in
Melanesia found that an amino acid change in
TYRP1 produced blonde hair.
Toddler with golden blonde hair
Blond hair is most common in light-skinned 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. Because blond hair tends
to turn brunette with age, natural blond hair is rare in
adulthood; according to the sociologist Christie Davies, only
around five percent of adults in
Europe and North America are
naturally blond. A study conducted in 2003 concluded that only
four percent of American adults are naturally blond. Nonetheless,
a significant majority of Caucasian women (perhaps as high as three in
four) dye their hair blond, a significantly higher percentage than for
any other hair color.
A map published by Carleton S. Coon, attributed to Elmer Rising
Blond hair is most common in
Scandinavia and the
Baltic Sea countries,
where true blondism is believed to have originated. The pigmentation
of both hair and eyes is lightest around the Baltic Sea, and darkness
increases regularly and almost concentrically around this region.
In France, according to a source published 1939, blondism is more
common in Normandy, and less common in the
Pyrenees and the
Mediterranean seacoast; 26% of French population has blond or light
brown hair. A 2007 study of French females showed that by then
roughly 20% were blonde, although half of these blondes were fully
fake. Roughly ten percent of French females are natural blondes, of
which 60% bleach their hair to a lighter nuance of blonde.
In Portugal, an average 11% of the population shows traces of
blondism, peaking at 14.3–15.1% blondes in
Povoa de Varzim
Povoa de Varzim in
northern Portugal. In northern Spain, 17% of the population
shows traces of blondism, but in southern
Spain just 2% of the people
are blond. In Italy, a study of Italian men conducted by Ridolfo
Livi between 1859 and 1863 on the records of the National Conscription
Service showed that 8.2% of Italian men exhibited blond hair. Blondism
frequency varies among regions from 12.6% in Veneto, to 1.7% in
Sardinia. In a more detailed study from the 20th century
geneticist Renato Biasutti, the regional contrasts of blondism
frequency are better shown, with a greater occurrence in the northern
regions where the figure could be over 20%, and a lesser occurrence in
the south such as
Sardinia where the frequency was less than 2.4%.
With the exception of
Benevento and the surrounding area where various
shades of blond hair were present in 10%–14.9% of the population,
other southern regions averaged between 2.5% and 7.4%.
Blondism is a common sight among
Berbers of North Africa, especially
in the Rif and Kabyle region. Blondism frequency varies among Berbers
from 1% among Jerban
Berbers and 4% among Mozabite
Berbers and Shawia
Berbers, to 11% among Kabyle Berbers. In
South Africa where there
is a significant population of whites, mainly from Dutch and English
ancestry, blondes may account for 3-4% of the South African
A number of blonde naturally mummified bodies of common people (i.e.
not proper mummies) dating to Roman times have been found in the Fagg
El Gamous cemetery in Egypt. "Of those whose hair was preserved 54%
were blondes or redheads, and the percentage grows to 87% when
light-brown hair color is added." Excavations have been ongoing
since the 1980s. Burials seem to be clustered by hair-colour.
Blonde girl from Vanuatu
Aboriginal Australians, especially in the west-central parts of the
continent, have a high frequency of natural blond-to-brown
hair. 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.
Blond hair in
Melanesians is caused by an amino acid change in the gene TYRP1.
This mutation is at a frequency of 26% in the
Solomon Islands and is
absent outside of Oceania.
Blonde hair can be found in any region of Asia, including West Asia,
East Asia, Central Asia, and South Asia. In these parts of
hair is generally seen among children and usually turns into a shade
of dark brown in adulthood. Environmental factors, for example sun
exposure and nutrition status, often contribute to changes in hair
color in Asia. Genetic research published in 2014, 2015 and 2016
found that Yamnaya Proto-Indo-Europeans, who migrated to
Europe in the
Bronze Age were overwhelmingly dark-eyed (brown) and
dark-haired, and had a skin colour that was moderately light, though
somewhat darker than that of the average modern European. While
light pigmentation traits had already existed in pre-Indo-European
Europeans (both farmers and hunter-gatherers), long-standing
philological attempts to correlate them with the arrival of
Indo-Europeans from the steppes were misguided.
Uyghur girl in Turpan, Xinjiang, China
According to genetic studies, Yamnaya Proto-Indo-European migration to
Europe led to Corded Ware culture, where Yamnaya Proto-Indo-Europeans
mixed with "Scandinavian hunter-gatherer" women who carried genetic
alleles HERC2/OCA2, which causes combination of blue eyes and blond
hair. Proto-Indo-Iranians who split from Corded Ware
culture formed the
Andronovo culture and are believed to have spread
genetic alleles HERC2/
OCA2 that cause blonde hair to parts of West
Asia and South Asia. Genetic analysis in 2014 also
found that people of the
Afanasevo culture which flourished in the
Altai Mountains were genetically identical to Yamnaya
Proto-Indo-Europeans and that they did not carry genetic alleles for
blonde hair or light eyes. The
Afanasevo culture was later
replaced by a second wave of Indo-European invaders from the Andronovo
culture, who were a product of Corded Ware admixture that took place
in Europe, and carried genetic alleles that cause blond hair and light
eyes. In 2009 and 2014, genomic study of Tarim mummies
discovered in the
Tarim Basin in present-day Xinjiang, China, showed
that they were also a product of a Corded Ware admixture and were
genetically closer to the
Andronovo culture (which split from Corded
Ware culture) than to the Yamnaya culture or Afanasevo
Today, higher frequencies of light hair in
Asia are more prevalent
among Pamiris, Kalash, Nuristani and Uyghur children than in adult
populations of these ethnic groups. About 75% of
geographically considered North Asia; however, the Asian portion of
Russia contributes to only an estimate of 20% of Russia's total
population. North Asia's population has an estimate of 1-19% with
light hair. From the times of the
Russian Tsardom of the 17th
century through the
Soviet Union rule in the 20th century, many ethnic
Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Lithuanians, Latvians, and
Estonians were settled in or exiled en masse to
Siberia and Central
Blond hair is often seen in these groups, whereas the indigenous
peoples are more likely to be dark haired. For instance,
their descendants currently contribute to an estimated 25% of
Kazakhstan's total population.
Many actors and actresses in
Latin America and Hispanic United States
have blond hair, blue eyes, and pale
Historical cultural perceptions
Left image: Reconstructed
Blond Kouros's Head of the Acropolis, c. 480
Right image: Ganymede, a Trojan youth, rolling a hoop, Attic vase c.
Most people in ancient Greece had dark hair and, as a result of this,
the Greeks found blond hair immensely fascinating. In the Homeric
Menelaus the king of the Spartans is, together with some other
Achaean leaders, portrayed as blond. Other blond characters in the
Homeric poems are Peleus, Achilles, Meleager, Agamede, and
Rhadamanthys. Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, was
often described as golden-haired and portrayed with this color hair in
art. Aphrodite's master epithet in the Homeric epics is
Χρυσεη (Khryseē), which means "golden". The traces of hair
color on Greek korai probably reflect the colors the artists saw in
natural hair; these colors include a broad diversity of shades of
blond, red, and brown. The minority of statues with blond hair
range from strawberry blond up to platinum blond.
Sappho of Lesbos (c. 630-570 BC) wrote that purple-colored wraps as
headdress were good enough, except if the hair was blonde: "...for the
girl who has hair that is yellower than a torch [it is better to
decorate it] with wreaths of flowers in bloom."
Aphrodite for her golden hair, stating that since gold metal
is free from rust, the goddess's golden hair represents her freedom
from ritual pollution. Sappho's contemporary
Alcman of Sparta
praised golden hair as one of the most desirable qualities of a
beautiful woman, describing in various poems "the girl with the
yellow hair" and a girl "with the hair like purest gold."
In the fifth century BC, the sculptor
Pheidias may have depicted the
Greek goddess of wisdom Athena's hair using gold in his famous statue
Athena Parthenos, which was displayed inside the Parthenon. The
Greeks thought of the
Thracians who lived to the north as having
reddish-blond hair. Because many Greek slaves were captured from
Thrace, slaves were stereotyped as blond or red-headed. "Xanthias"
(Ξανθίας), meaning "reddish blond", was a common name for
slaves in ancient Greece and a slave by this name appears in
many of the comedies of Aristophanes.
The most famous statue of Aphrodite, the
Aphrodite of Knidos, sculpted
in the fourth century BC by Praxiteles, represented the goddess's hair
using gold leaf and contributed to the popularity of the image of
Aphrodite as a blonde goddess. Greek prostitutes frequently dyed
their hair blond using saffron dyes or colored powders.
was highly expensive, took great effort to apply, and smelled
repugnant, but none of these factors inhibited Greek prostitutes
from dying their hair. As a result of this and the natural rarity
of blond hair in the Mediterranean region, by the fourth century BC,
blond hair was inextricably associated with prostitutes. The comic
playwright Menander (c. 342/41 – c. 290 BC) protests that "no chaste
woman ought to make her hair yellow." At another point, he
deplores blonde hair dye as dangerous: "What can we women do wise or
brilliant, who sit with hair dyed yellow, outraging the character of
gentlewomen, causing the overthrow of houses, the ruin of nuptials,
and accusations on the part of children?" Historian and
Joann Fletcher asserts that the Macedonian ruler
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great and members of the Macedonian-Greek Ptolemaic
dynasty of Hellenistic
Egypt had blond hair, such as
Arsinoe II and
Berenice II, while
Cleopatra VII was likely a redhead given her
appearance in a near-contemporary Roman painting from Herculaneum.
Michael Grant notes that Ptolemy II Philadelphus, pharaoh
and husband to queen Arsinoe II, also had blonde hair.
The male figure of the Etruscan sarcophagus known as the Sarcophagus
of the Spouses (Louvre, Paris), 520-510 BC
Hera (according to the description on the cup); tondo of
an Attic white-ground kylix from Vulci, c. 470 BC
Terracotta vase in the shape of Dionysus' head, c. 410 BC; on display
Ancient Agora Museum
Ancient Agora Museum in Athens, housed in the Stoa of Attalus
Pottery vessel of
Aphrodite in a shell; from Attica, Classical Greece,
discovered at Phanagoria,
Taman Peninsula (Bosporan Kingdom, southern
Russia), early 4th century BC, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg
An ancient Greek pottery (terracotta) figurine from Taras (modern
Taranto), Magna Graecia, Altes Museum
A mosaic of the
Kasta Tomb in
Amphipolis depicting the abduction of
Persephone by Pluto, 4th century BC
A youth pours a libation to a dead man sitting in a naiskos; from an
Apulian red-figure volute-krater pelike, 340–320 BC
Stag Hunt Mosaic, possibly depicting Alexander the Great, Pella,
Greece, 4th century BC.
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great (left), wearing a kausia and fighting an Asiatic
lion with his friend
Craterus (detail); late 4th-century BC mosaic
Female acrobat shooting an arrow with a bow in her feet; Gnathia style
pelike; 4th century BC
Gnathia ware, southern
Italy (Magna Graecia), Apulian vase painting,
310-260 BC, Kinský Palace (Prague)
Oinochoe with Lid by the Ganymed Painter (Oinochoe)
and Armidale Painter (Lid): head in a calyx between tendrils. About
340-310 BC. Antikensammlung Kiel.
Detail of a krater with volutes in terracotta; Greek art from Southern
Italy, c. 330-320 BC.
A Gnathia-style ceramic vessel from ancient
Magna Graecia (Apulia,
Italy), depicting a blond winged youth with a Phrygian cap, with lion
head spouts, by the "Toledo" painter, c. 300 BC
Woman's head on an alabastron in gnathia style; Apulian vase painting,
Magna Graecia, Antikensammlung Kiel
Color reconstruction of statue of a young girl from the
Athens, 520 BC. Based on analysis of trace pigments.
East Frieze detail (6th-5th century BC) representing the battle of
Achilles against Memnon; color reproduction of the Treasury of
Siphnos - Delphi, Archaeological Museum of Delphi
Reconstructed polychromy of a vase-shaped tombstone from Athens, c.
330 BC, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen
The Greek goddess Artemis. Color reconstruction of a 1st-century AD
statue found in Pompeii. Reconstructed using analysis of trace
pigments. It was an imitation of Greek statues of the 6th century BC.
The Treu Head, 2nd century AD. Color reconstruction of marble head of
likely a goddess. The head was found at the Esquiline Hill, Rome, and
preserves numerous colour traces.
On the left: Statue of
Antinous (Delphi), depiting Antinous,
polychrome Parian marble, made during the reign of
Hadrian (r. 117-138
On the right: detail of athletic women in the "bikini girls" mosaic of
the Villa Romana del Casale, Roman Sicily, 4th century AD
During the early years of the Roman Empire, blond hair was 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. Sherrow also states that Roman women tried to
lighten their hair, but the substances often caused hair loss, so they
resorted to wigs made from the captives’ hair. According to
Francis Owens, Roman literary records describe a large number of
well-known Roman historical personalities as blond. In addition, 250
individuals are recorded to have had the name Flavius, meaning yellow,
and there are various people named Rufus and Rutilius, meaning red
haired and reddish-haired, respectively.
Juvenal wrote in a satirical poem that Messalina, Roman empress of
noble birth, would hide her black hair with a blonde wig for her
nightly visits to the brothel: sed nigrum flavo crinem abscondente
galero intravit calidum veteri centone lupanar. In his Commentary
Aeneid of Virgil,
Maurus Servius Honoratus
Maurus Servius Honoratus noted that the
respectable matron was only black haired, never blonde. In the
same passage, he mentioned that
Cato the Elder
Cato the Elder wrote that some matrons
would sprinkle golden dust on their hair to make it reddish-color.
Lucius Verus (r. 161 – 169 AD) was said to sprinkle
gold-dust on his already "golden" blond hair to make it even blonder
Commodus (r. 177-192), son of
Marcus Aurelius (a
co-emperor with Lucius Verus), likewise had naturally curly blond
Roman frescoes from the Villa di Arianna, Stabiae, Italy, 1st century
On the left: a domestic scene of a seated young man
On the right: another domestic scene showing a woman looking in a
mirror as she dresses (or undresses) her hair
From an ethnic point of view, Roman authors associated blond and red
hair with the Gauls and the Germans: e.g.,
Virgil describes the hair
of the Gauls as "golden" (aurea caesaries),
Tacitus wrote that
"the Germans have fierce blue eyes, red-blond hair (rutilae comae),
huge (tall) frames"; in accordance with Ammianus, almost all the
Gauls were "of tall stature, fair and ruddy". Celtic and Germanic
peoples of the provinces, among the free subjects called peregrini,
served in Rome's armies as auxilia, such as the cavalry contingents in
the army of Julius Caesar. Some became Roman citizens as far back
as the 1st century BC, following a policy of Romanization of
Lesser Germania. For instance, Gaius Julius Civilis, a prince of
the Batavii, was a Roman citizen either by birth or naturalization (as
indicated by his name). Before the Constitutio Antoniniana, which
granted citizenship to all free men of the empire in 212 AD, entire
auxiliary cohorts were occasionally granted citizenship for their
performance in battle. Sometimes entire Celtic and Germanic
tribes were granted citizenship, such as when emperor
citizenship to all of the
Lingones in 69 AD. By the 1st century
Roman Republic had expanded its control into parts of western
Germany, and by 85 AD the provinces of
Germania Inferior and Germania
Superior were formally established there. Yet as late as the 4th
century AD, Ausonius, a poet and tutor from Burdigala, wrote a poem
Alemanni slave girl named Bissula, who he had recently freed
after she'd been taken as a prisoner of war in the campaigns of
Valentinian I, noting that her adopted
Latin language marked her as a
Latium yet her blond-haired, blue-eyed appearance ultimately
signified her true origins from the Rhine.
Further south, the
Iberian peninsula was originally inhabited by
Celtiberians outside of Roman control. The gradual Roman conquest of
Iberia was completed by the early 1st century AD. The Romans
established provinces such as
Hispania Terraconensis that were
inhabited largely by Gallaeci, whose red and blond-haired descendants
(which also include those of Visigothic origins) have continued to
inhabit northern areas of
Spain such as Galicia and
Portugal into the
modern era. During the medieval period Spanish ladies preferred
to dye their hair black, yet by the time of the
Renaissance in the
16th century the fashion (imported from Italy) was to dye their hair
blond or red.
Roman fresco from
Pompeii showing a
Maenad in silk dress, 1st century
Ancient Roman fresco (detail) featuring
Perseus and the head of
Medusa, Stabiae, Italy, 1st century AD.
Fresco depicting a seated woman, from the Villa Arianna at Stabiae,
1st century AD
Heracles and Omphale, Pompeian Fourth Style (45–79 AD)
Roman fresco of a blond woman reading a text, Pompeian Fourth Style
(60-79 AD), Pompeii
Aphrodite from Pompeii
A maenad holding a cupid, Pompeii, 1st century AD
Ancient Roman bust of Antinous, made during the reign of Hadrian
(117–138 AD), National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
Remnants of a Roman bust of a youth with a blond beard, perhaps
Commodus (r. 177–192), National
Archaeological Museum, Athens
Polychrome marble statue depicting the goddess
Tyche holding the
Plutus in her arms, 2nd century AD, Istanbul Archaeological
Tiberius Julius Sauromates II
Tiberius Julius Sauromates II (d. 210 AD), ruler of the
Bosporan Kingdom in Roman Crimea, one of Rome's client states
A blond man in a Roman fresco from Klagenfurt, Austria, Landesmuseum
A mosaic from
Tusculum depicting Athena, 3rd century AD
Roman mosaic depicting a feminine personification, from the Boathouse
of Psyche in Daphne (suburb of Antioch), beginning of 3rd century AD,
A boy holding a platter of fruits and what may be a bucket of crabs,
in a kitchen with fish and squid, on the June panel from a mosaic
depicting the months (3rd century)
A mosaic of young boys hunting from the Villa Romana del Casale, Roman
Sicily, 4th century AD
A Roman fresco depicting the goddess Diana hunting, 4th century AD,
from the Via Livenza hypogeum in Rome
Mosaic depicting Odysseus, from La Olmeda, Spain, late 4th–5th
Mosaic of a princess of
Skyros (detail from a larger scene of the
Achilles and Odysseus) from the villa of La Olmeda,
Spain, late 4th–5th centuries AD
Achilles being adored by princesses of Skyros, a scene from the Iliad
Odysseus (Ulysses) discovers him dressed as a woman and hiding
among the princesses at the royal court of Skyros. A late Roman mosaic
from La Olmeda, Spain, 4th–5th centuries AD
Mary Magdalene (c. 1480-1487), altarpiece in International Gothic
Carlo Crivelli showing her with long, blond hair
Medieval Scadinavian art and literature often places emphasis on the
length and color of a woman's hair, considering long, blonde hair
to be the ideal. In Norse mythology, the goddess
Sif has famously
blonde hair, which some scholars have identified as representing
golden wheat. In the
Old Norse Gunnlaug Saga, Helga the
Beautiful, described as "the most beautiful woman in the world", is
said to have hair that is "as fair as beaten gold" and so long that it
can "envelope her entirely". In the
Poetic Edda poem Rígsþula,
the blond man Jarl is considered to be the ancestor of the dominant
warrior class. In Northern European folklore, supernatural beings
value blonde hair in humans. Blonde babies are more likely to be
stolen and replaced with changelings, and young blonde women are more
likely to be lured away to the land of the beings.
The Scandinavians were not the only ones to place strong emphasis on
the beauty of blonde hair; the French writer Christine de Pisan
writes in her book
The Treasure of the City of Ladies
The Treasure of the City of Ladies (1404) that
"there is nothing in the world lovelier on a woman's head than
beautiful blond hair." In medieval artwork, female saints are
often shown with long, shimmering blonde hair, which emphasizes their
holiness and virginity. At the same time, however,
Eve is often
shown with long, blonde hair, which frames her nude body and draws
attention to her sexual attractiveness. In medieval Gothic
paintings of the crucifixion of Jesus, the figure of
Mary Magdalene is
shown with long, blond hair, which flows down her back unbound in
contrast to most of the women in the scenes, who are shown with dark
hair, normally covered by a scarf. In the older versions of the
Tristan and Iseult,
Tristan falls in love with
seeing only a single lock of her long, blonde hair. In fact,
Iseult was so closely associated with blondness that, in the poems of
Chrétien de Troyes, she is called "
Iseult le Blonde". In
Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (written from 1387 until 1400),
the knight describes the beautiful princess Emily in his tale,
stating, "yclothed was she fressh, for to devyse:/Hir yellow heer was
broided in a tresse/Behinde hir bak, a yerde long, I gesse" (lines
Because of blond hair's relative commonness in northern Europe,
especially among children, folk tales from these regions tend to
feature large numbers of blond protagonists. Although these
stories may not have been seen by their original tellers as idealizing
blond hair, when they are read in cultures outside of northern
Europe where blond hair "has rarity value", they may seem to connote
that blond hair is a sign of special purity.
Fourteenth-century painting by
Giusto de' Menabuoi
Giusto de' Menabuoi of Adam and Eve
being expelled from
Eden by an angel, showing all three as blond
International Gothic showing
Mary Magdalene covered by her long, blond
hair as she is lifted by angels in SS. Johns' Cathedral in Toruń
Detail of the blond Virgin Mary from Leonardo da Vinci's Annunciation
Eve (1507) by Albrecht Dürer, showing
Eve with blond hair
The Creation of
Eve (1508 - 1512) by Michelangelo, showing
The End of the Song (1902) by Edmund Leighton, showing
medieval legend with long, blond hair
Loki cuts the hair of the goddess
Sif in an illustration (1920) by
Early twentieth-century racism
In the early twentieth century, blonde hair was considered a hallmark
trait of the supposedly supreme "Nordic race", as shown by
these Nazi propaganda photographs, which were originally intended to
demonstrate what pure Nordic Aryans were supposed to look like.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, blond hair,
white skin, blue eyes, a tall stature, a long head, and an angled nose
were deemed by scientific racists as hallmarks of the so-called
"master race". In the nineteenth century, this race was
usually referred to as the "Germanic race", but after the turn of
the twentieth century, it came to be more commonly known as the
"Nordic race". German and Scandinavian scientists and academics
throughout the early part of the twentieth century studied racial
typology to the point of obsession and debated the features of
Nordic race extensively.
In the 1920s, the eugenicist
Eugen Fischer invented the Fischer hair
color table (Fischer Haarfarbentafel) to scientifically document hair
color, which consisted of twenty-six bundles of cellulose fiber coated
in non-fading colors attached to a palette and labeled with
numbers. Lighter colors were given higher numbers and darker ones
were given lower numbers, with the distinction between "blond" and
"brown" being set between seven and eight. Fischer was a
passionate supporter of
Nazi eugenics and warned that the
interbreeding of different races would result in the deterioration of
modern civilization. Dispute over the exact distinction between
blond and brown hair was a heated debate among Norwegian
anthropologists during this period, with
Halfdan Bryn arguing
that the distinction should instead be set between six and seven.
By the end of the 1920s, the International Federation of Eugenics
Organizations (IFEO), the leading international eugenics organization,
became increasingly dominated by proponents of the racial hygiene
movement, who sought to turn the organization into "Blond
International", which would be "aimed at the purification and
propagation of the Nordic race." After the
Nazi Party came to
power in Germany in 1933, racial anthropology based on the ideas of
genetic superiority and racial psychology "became increasingly
hegemonic in Germany." The Nazis revered blond hair as a quality
of the herrenrasse ("master race").
The idea of racial superiority, which once dominated the field of
anthropology, has now been completely and unanimously rejected by
modern scientists. Modern scientists have also rejected the
assertions and beliefs of pre-
World War II
World War II racialists.
Classification of race based on physical characteristics such as hair
color is seen as a "flawed, pseudo-scientific relic of the past."
Many modern scientists dispute whether the concept of "race" is even a
useful classification for human beings at all.
Modern cultural associations
Portrait of a Woman by Bartolomeo Veneto, traditionally assumed to be
In contemporary popular culture, blonde women are stereotyped as being
more sexually attractive to men than women with other hair colors.
Anita Loos popularized this idea in her 1925 novel
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Some women have reported they feel other
people expect them to be more fun-loving after having lightened their
hair. The American novelist and screenwriter Raymond Chandler
offers an appraisal of the blonde as social criticism in his novel The
Long Goodbye (1953):
There are blondes and blondes and it is almost a joke word nowadays.
All blondes have their points, except perhaps the metallic ones who
are as blond as a Zulu under the bleach and as to disposition as soft
as a sidewalk. There is the small cute blonde who cheeps and twitters,
and the big statuesque blonde who straight-arms you with an ice-blue
glare. There is the blonde who gives you the up-from-under look and
smells lovely and shimmers and hangs on your arm and is always very
tired when you take her home. She makes that helpless gesture and has
that goddamned headache and you would like to slug her except that you
are glad you found out about the headache before you invested too much
time and money and hope in her. Because the headache will always be
there, a weapon that never wears out and is as deadly as the bravo's
rapier or Lucrezia's poison vial.
There is the soft and willing and alcoholic blonde who doesn't care
what she wears as long as it is mink or where she goes as long as it
is the Starlight Roof and there is plenty of dry champagne. There is
the small perky blonde who is a little pal and wants to pay her own
way and is full of sunshine and common sense and knows judo from the
ground up and can toss a truck driver over her shoulder without
missing more than one sentence out of the editorial in the Saturday
Review. There is the pale, pale blonde with anemia of some non-fatal
but incurable type. She is very languid and very shadowy and she
speaks softly out of nowhere and you can't lay a finger on her because
in the first place you don't want to and in the second place she is
The Waste Land
The Waste Land or Dante in the original, or Kafka or
Kierkegaard or studying Provençal. She adores music and when the New
York Philharmonic is playing Hindemith she can tell you which one of
the six bass viols came in a quarter of a beat too late. I hear
Toscanini can also. That makes two of them. And lastly there is the
gorgeous show piece who will outlast three kingpin racketeers and then
marry a couple of millionaires at a million a head and end up with a
pale rose villa at Cap Antibes, an
Alfa-Romeo town car complete with
pilot and co-pilot, and a stable of shopworn aristocrats, all of whom
she will treat with the affectionate absent-mindedness of an elderly
duke saying goodnight to his butler.
Saturday Evening Post
Saturday Evening Post (1910). Fitzgerald was a frequent
contributor in the 1920s.
American novelist and short story writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, and
chronicler of the Jazz Age, describes a blonde salesclerk working in
Minneapolis, Minnesota in his short story "At Your Age" (1929):
Then looking up, he saw the blonde girl. She was a rare blonde, even
in the Promised Land of Scandinavians, where pretty blondes were not
rare. There was a warm color in her cheeks, lips and pink little hands
that folded the powders into papers; her hair, in long braids twisted
about her head, was shining and alive. She seemed to Tom suddenly the
cleanest person he knew of, and he caught his breath as he stepped
forward and looked into her gray eyes.
"A can of talcum."
"Any kind...that's fine."
She looked back at him apparently without self-consciousness, [and]
his heart raced with it wildly."
Madonna popularized the short bleached blond haircut after the release
of her third studio album True Blue and influenced both the 1980s
fashion scene as well as many future female musicians like Christina
Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus.
Lack of intelligence
In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), one of the films in which Monroe
portrayed a sexually attractive and naïve "dumb blonde"
Originating in Europe, the "blonde stereotype" is also associated with
being less serious or less intelligent.
Blonde jokes are a class
of jokes based on the stereotype of blonde women as
unintelligent. In Brazil, this extends to blonde women being
looked down, as reflected in sexist jokes, as also sexually
licentious. It is believed the originator of the "dumb blonde"
was an eighteenth-century blonde French prostitute named Rosalie
Duthé whose reputation of being beautiful but dumb inspired a play
about her called Les Curiosites de la Foire (Paris 1775). Blonde
actresses have contributed to this perception; some of them include
Marilyn Monroe, Judy Holliday, Jayne Mansfield, and
Goldie Hawn during
her time at Laugh-In.
The British filmmaker
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 Elle Woods, played by
Reese Witherspoon, succeeds at Harvard despite biases against her
beauty and blonde hair.
In the 1950s, the American actress Marilyn Monroe's screen persona
centered on her blonde hair and the stereotypes associated with it,
especially dumbness, naïveté, sexual availability and
artificiality. She often used a breathy, childish voice in her
films, and in interviews gave the impression that everything she said
was "utterly innocent and uncalculated", parodying herself with double
entendres that came to be known as "Monroeisms". For example,
when she was asked what she had on in the 1949 nude photo shoot, she
replied, "I had the radio on". Monroe often wore white to
emphasize her blondness, and drew attention by wearing revealing
outfits that showed off her figure. Although Monroe's typecast
screen persona as a dim-witted but sexually attractive blonde was a
carefully crafted act, audiences and film critics believed it to be
her real personality and did not realize that she was only
Disappearing blonde gene
Human hair color
Blonde vs. brunette rivalry
Go Blonde Festival
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France as a whole finds but 4
per cent of black and near-black hair color, 23 per cent of dark
brown, 43 per cent of medium brown, 14 per cent of light brown, 12 per
cent of various degrees of blond, and some 4 per cent of reddish-brown
and red. (...)
The regional distribution of hair color in
France follows closely that
of stature. Although the position of the French in regard to hair
pigmentation is intermediate between blond and black, the diagonal
Mont St. Michel
Mont St. Michel to Orleans, Lyons, and the Italian border
divides the country into a northeastern quadrant, in which the hair is
somewhat lighter than medium, and a southwestern, in which it is
somewhat darker. High ratios of black and very dark brown hair are
found not in the typically Alpine country, but along the slope of the
Pyrenees, in Catalan-speaking country, and on the Mediterranean
Blond hair is commonest along the Channel, in regions
Saxons and Normans, in
Burgundy and the country bordering
Switzerland, and down the course of the Rhône. In northern
seems to follow upstream the rivers which empty into the Channel. The
hair color of the departments occupied by
Flemish speakers, and of
others directly across the Channel from England in Normandy, seems to
be nearly as light as that in the southern English counties; the
coastal cantons of
Brittany are lighter than the inland ones, and
approximate a Cornish condition. In the same way, the northeastern
French departments are probably as light-haired as some of the
provinces of southern Germany. access-date= requires url=
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hair, some 68 per cent dark brown, while traces of blondism are
visible in 17 per cent. (...) As in southern Spain, the skin color is
evenly divided between a light brown, 45 per cent, and brunet-white,
45 per cent, while pinkish-white skins are found in only one-tenth of
the population. Again as in Spain, the prevailing hair color is dark
brown, which amounts to 68 per cent of the total; blond and red hair
is limited to 2 per cent.
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