The Mystery Behind Red Beards

By on May 7, 2014

Beards are quite “in” these days. Some call it a trend, some call it more specifically a hipster-trend – whatever you want to call it, men with facial hair aren’t a new thing. We’ve seen the rise and fall of facial hair as cultural norms change and society changes its mind on what beards represent. According to the Victorian Journal of Culture Online “beards reached a height of popularity in the 1890s when over 60% of men were bearded.”[1] Crazy!

But on to the real mystery here: what is the deal with men without red hair growing red beards? I know plenty of men with brown or blonde hair that grow a fairly bright auburn beard – but when I asked around, even they couldn’t help me solve the mystery. With the help of some internet sleuthing, however, I’ve narrowed it down to two explanations:


1. It’s in the genes.

The quite obvious answer has something to do with genetics. I couldn’t find a lot of in-depth musings on the topic, other than lots of people have red beards and different color hair! Over at BBC Focus they give a little insight: “In order to have a ginger beard you must be a carrier for the recessive gene on chromosome 4. With two copies of this gene you will have ginger hair all over, but with just one, the hair on your head will be brown or auburn and your beard will be ginger.”

2. Hair-itage.

My favourite explanation for the red bearded man (with no red hair) is that he has some Viking or Celtic blood still bubblin’ his veins [3]. Scotland and Ireland have the highest red hair percentages [4], so it’s possible you have a tall, strong and fearsome Norseman in your family free to thank for your lovely red beard. I’m not sure how much weight this explanation holds, but I like it!

Just like the magic behind David Bowie’s one blue eye and one green eye, the mystery of the red beard lives on. Science or Vikings, it just is, and it’s awesome. What do you think about the just-red beard? Do you have any insights? Let us know! @TOCityGossip @lkewolves


  1. Matthews-Jones, Lucinda. “Victorian Movember: The Return of the Monarch Beard.” Victorian Journal of Culture Online. November 26, 1013.
  2. Sunter, Max. “Why Do People Without Red Hair Grow Red Beards.” The Daily Touch. March 22, 2013.
  3. Villazon, Luis. “Q&A.” BBC Focus. July 22, 2009.
  4. “Red Hair.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia
Moira O'Connell

About Moira O'Connell

Moira is a writer & makeup-lover based in Toronto. She has a background in archiving, coffee slinging & relocating (also signing Iggy Pop a little too loud). She’s pretty sure she was born in the wrong decade, maybe even century. Swears by: red lipstick, bell bottoms & selkies. You can check out her lifestyle blog at or follow her on Twitter @lkwolves

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