Like I said before, while there’s no doubt that Sweden has one of the world’s highest levels of blond hair but when there’s more light hair around there’s going to be some curious distinction made between certain colours. The word råttfärgat hår often means a dull blond colour and sometimes light brown too.
If we take hair colour percentages and phenotypes into account, the average Swedish population is more likely to have dark blond, ash and light brown hair. Which is close to old anthropological reports and surveys. Similar things can be said of Poles, Germans and Lowlanders though I think they’d be more likely to fall under the latter two.
Pale enough to be blond elsewhere but dull enough to be mousy back home.
There was a study in a journal of Scandinavian psychology that blonde women were more likely to be approached in a bar or something. Though that’s understandable, keep in mind that if there’s substantially more blond hair in Scandinavia they could have a different idea of what’s really blond over there.
I’d suspect that the average Scandinavian would have somewhat dull blond hair so a light blond is blond to it. Russian language actually has a separate word for dull blond hair, albeit one that’s a legitimate colour term and it’s called russiy. That’s noted in one language blog.
Among the Dutch, Germans and Swedes there are specific derogatory words to describe light brown and mousy blond hair. In Swedish, it’s known as råttfärgat hår, a ratty blond hair. (The Dutch and German equivalents seemed to invoke brindle or striped dogs.) The Russian equivalent seemed neutral enough.
And the Polish version exactly translates to mousy blond. One could infer that light brown and dull blond hair are common in those places.
People chide at him for looking
So strange, so foreign but he’s
Always born and bred in India.
Under the burning Indian sun
The man hides, but his hair so
Noticeable as people suspect
He’s foreign but he’s native.
There’s a curious debate at least in the West whether brown or blond hair’s more attractive. Keep in mind that certain studies may contradict due to the number of sample sizes and where it’s taken. There was a study in Brittany, France where more men tend to be distracted by blond hair.
That’s true to an extent but keep in mind that Brittany’s in Northern France which as one would expect have the highest rates of blond hair there. Similar things can be said of a Minnesota study if stereotypes are to be believed when it comes to most white Midwesterners being of German and Scandinavian descent.
Dating surveys tend to be more global and have polled more people. According to Badoo as well as a Canadian dating survey, the most popular hair colour in a romantic partner is brown hair. Those surveys are significantly more global. Another one is koinophilia or being attracted to someone similar.
If Brittany’s in Northern France and has one of the highest rates of blondism there (and similar things can be said of Minnesota), then it couldn’t just be due to youthful connotations and flashiness but also koinophilia. Another issue is relativity. A French blonde bombshell would easily be the average mousy-haired Swede.
Blond hair does darken to a degree but it depends on the individual. Sometimes a platinum infant grows up to have dull blond hair for life whilst another darkens to dark brown. Many more true blonds often wound up with dull blond hair and dull blond hair alone can muddy both brown and blond hair categories.
Like I said, since red hair’s much rarer in Africa and Asia it’s inevitably that the way red hair’s used is vague enough to invite multiple interpretations which includes getting swapped for blond or brown hair and vice versa as with Kakyoin and Asuka. In fact a good number of anime redheads, especially from earlier works aren’t intended to have red hair.
These two could easily be blond which’s also the case with some canonical works. Much weirder hair colours or rather characters intended to have those wouldn’t appear until much later perhaps sometime in the 1980s. Save for works adapted from Western literature like Little Princess, red-haired characters let alone ones intended as such rarely appeared.
Blond characters were odd enough to be portrayed, whether as foreigners, suspicious, (Cutey Honey’s a robot), supernatural beings or both. Patalliro had two notable blonds and both were foreigners. Much weirder hair colours had yet to occur, let alone canonically so.
Most Japanese comics (as with newspaper strips) were made in b/w and if given the opportunity, they wound up experimenting with colours, sometimes those differing from the readers’ interpretations. But hair colour generally didn’t matter much as other details did as these seldom appeared in colour to begin with.
As Japanese comics are predictably made for a Japanese audience, they still will have different ideas about hair colours.
When it comes to older works like Evangelion and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures it’s likelier that, unless if said anime’s adapted from a Western work like Anne of Green Gables or Little Princess where you have redheads there, their redheads might not be intended to be as such and probably still isn’t. Natural red hair’s much rarer in Asia and Africa so inevitably they have no idea what it is.
Let alone ideas around it. With blond hair and pale skin, they have ideas about it since they both have had contact with Westerners and albinos at some point or another though their perception diverges from Westerners. Blond hair doesn’t connote youthful beauty to them as much as it arouses both curiosity and suspicion judging by how they perceive Westerners and albinos.
Even light brown hair counts as blond to them. Red hair, well, to them is significantly vaguer and whatever stereotypes they have of redheads is imported from Westerners which gets more evident with more recent works. Shana goes red-haired when she starts fires, though this is a more recent cliche in anime and one more significantly common in US superhero stories.
Jean Grey’s reinvention as the Phoenix predates that of Shana. Some of the earlier anime redheads had nothing to do with short tempers and flames. Most notably Kakyoin and Kurama, both around since the early 1990s. (Though a few had something to do with either cherries, roses or foxes which would’ve been their closest point of reference at the time.)
It’s parsimonious to suggest that Japanese and Chinese ACG cartoonists wouldn’t even have a clear consensus over red hair cliches until much later.