- Outlander -A Timeline Of Jamie's 'Outlander' Hair Evolution
With his bravery, humor, charm, and devotion, Jamie Fraser has many characteristics that define him far beyond his looks. But when it came to adapting Diana Gabaldon's Outlander character for TV, the superficial certainly mattered. While cat eyes and long nose would have been bonuses, the essentials were: He needed to be tall (around 6 feet 4 inches in fact) and to have a Scottish accent. But, perhaps most importantly, Jamie Fraser needed to have red hair.
In Outlander, Gabaldon paints James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser's vivid hue with words like:
- "bright hair darkened by the rain to the color of ancient bronze"
- "bright hair blazed in the mist."
- "his hair shone under the sun like a helmet of burnished metal"
- "the morning sun lit his hair with flames of gold and copper"
Even his armpits are "cinnamon-colored"!
Sam Heughan nabbed the role of Claire's fiery love in 2013, but while Heughan says in his book Clanlands that he comes "from a family of flame-haired relatives, my mother's side being proper gingers!," the Scottish actor is not naturally redheaded. That was something fans were able to overlook once some hair dye was introduced. But during Season 3, something terrible happened — the hair dye took a backseat to wigs. Needless to say, the fandom had Thoughts when it came to Jamie's new, even more, artificial hair.
Some might say, What's in a hair? But it's all in the mane since, particularly in literary adaptations, the details matter. So although Jamie's hair may not be as significant as say, Harry Potter's eyes, his locks are part of who he is.
"Jamie's hair is important to the story as he goes through the many stages of his life," Maria T. of The Outlander Lounge tells The Dipp. "Paris Jamie has his own hair. Then he grows it long and fierce during his time as a hollow shell of a man living in a cave after Culloden. In Season 5, we have the mature and seasoned Laird of Fraser's Ridge."
Let's evaluate how Heughan's Jamie hair has evolved over time and what it has meant for his iconic Outlander character.
2013: Heughan Is Cast Sans Red Hair
Gabaldon has documented all her feelings about Heughan's casting as Jamie on her website and she made no bones about the fact that she wasn't initially impressed. But she wrote that her opinion immediately changed upon seeing a video of Heughan acting in character — and that was even with the naturally "dirty, dirty blonde" actor having dark hair in the recording (like in the Starz announcement above). By the time the casting news became public in July 2013, Gabaldon tweeted she was "UTTERLY delighted" that Heughan was in the role.
Gabaldon also noted in a Facebook post from August 2013 that Heughan had gone red before for commercials for the Scottish beer Tennent's Lager (which, if you haven't seen the ads starring Heughan and Governor Tryon actor Tim Downie by now, you're doing yourself a great disservice). "I'm sure that he'll look Just Fine when in character as Jamie Fraser," she wrote.
She confirmed everything was "Just Fine" on her website on the "casting commentary" page when she wrote in November 2013 that Heughan was able to get Jamie's red hair after "seven tries — and 27 hours in a salon chair, I was told by the victim." Her final verdict? "It's definitely the right kind of red."
So while Heughan may never have the long, straight nose that Jamie in the books has (a nose that's modeled after Gabaldon's husband's), he was able to capture the character with a little help from some hair dye.
Why The Hue Matters
So why does it need to be the "right kind of red"?
Well, Maria T. notes that Jamie's hair is significant to Claire — and thus, to readers and viewers. "Jamie's hair is as important to all of us as it is to Claire," she tells The Dipp. "Claire's hair is such an important part of who she is. She describes her own insecurities about her unruly hair in great detail that it would only make sense that she would describe Jamie's luminous red/auburn locks to us in admiration."
From a storytelling perspective, his hair also makes Jamie stand out. "Jamie's seems to be the tallest Scot and the only one with red hair. You'd think it would be easier for the Redcoats to find him," Lisa Rojas of Outlander Headquarters says.
Beyond his hair hue adding to the outlaw Red Jamie's notoriety, "Jamie's hair is just one of the features that makes him stand out above and beyond other men... His hair color and him are one of a kind," Maria says. "He isn't called the King of Men for nothing." And red is his crown.
2014–2017: The Hair Dye Era
As Gabaldon outlined, Heughan initially had his hair dyed to portray Jamie. He talked about the painstaking process of finding the right color to Elle Canada in 2015. "It got dyed seven times in the first two weeks trying to find the right color red. It had a lot to do with the lenses we're using and then the exposure and the grading of the film..." Heughan said. But once they nailed it, "It was quite a special moment. And that is part of finding the character when you see yourself and you go "Oh, yes that's what he looks like!'"
After they found the color, Heughan had to deal with the upkeep. In 2016 when Season 2 was airing, Heughan told People he was having his hair dyed nearly every two episodes to keep the color fresh. (Anyone who has ever dyed their hair red knows how quickly the color fades; it has to do with the molecules.) Even then, Heughan was dreaming of a day when his life wasn't dictated by Jamie's hair. "I'm looking forward to losing the long locks at some point," he said.
While the beginning of Season 3 was airing in September 2017, Heughan again talked about the hair dyeing process with People. "It's pretty horrific. I have to get it dyed a crazy amount — it's like every three weeks. It's not easy. It's hard being a ginger."
At that point, as he told Elle, he had chopped his hair off for the movie The Spy Who Dumped Me. He clearly was conflicted about the new length in interviews. "I was desperate to have my hair short, but I kind of miss long hair," he told Esquire. But this haircut meant a change was coming.
His makeup artist/hairstylist/scar applier Wendy Kemp Forbes told Entertainment Weekly in 2017 that it took two hours and 20 minutes to complete the whole look. "He's a lovely man but none of them are that patient in the chair," Forbes said. "They don't want to be in any longer than necessary." The wig writing was on the wall.
The Hair Highlights
Fans oft reflect on the glory days of when Heughan was working with his real hair — even if some fans were divided at the time. "I love Sam’s natural curls in Season 1. That will always be my favorite Jamie hair, Rojas says. "No wig could duplicate Sam's hair."
As for specific (ahem) highlights? Graham McTavish may have claimed in Clanlands that Heughan looked like Liberace in "The Wedding," but Maria T. begs to differ. "We all love 'wedding hair' Jamie," she says. In the book Outlander, Claire describes his wedding-day lock look as, "The thick red-gold hair had been brushed to a smooth gleam." As demonstrated above, the Outlander production team did justice to Jamie's swept-back coif.
Another highpoint for Jamie's hair came in the second half of Season 1 (you might have blocked out this dark time, but there had been a six-month gap between Episode 8 and 9). "His best hair was Part 2 of Outlander's Season 1," Dorianne Panich of Outlander Homepage tells The Dipp. "Sam looked great as Jamie."
But things were about to change...
2017–2019: The Age Of The Wig
As Balfe and Heughan told Elle.com, wigs and hair extensions came into play in Season 3. With Heughan's many interviews on the topic of how difficult the red was to maintain — plus, his needing his hair options to be open for other roles — could you blame him for moving to a wig? Well, yes, fans could. Rojas tells The Dipp that during Seasons 3 and 4 she "wished he wore a hat all the time" to hide the wigs. And one thread on Reddit called one of Heughan's wigs "the villain of Season 4." That's a red-hued, fiery-flamed burn.
Despite fans' protests, the wigs make sense practically. In Clanlands, Heughan talks about how Forbes has managed to get his make-up and wig (plus whatever else is needed for that day) application finished in 45 minutes.
Wigs do have their downsides though, as Heughan outlined in Clanlands. He talked about how midges (or gnats) "find their way under your wig, anywhere warm and slightly moist, they feast on your scalp and it's so hard not to itch or scream during your closeup." But as his career continues to grow, it's unlikely he'll go back to his own hair.
When talking about The Wigs, a discussion about The Bangs inevitably follows. Just like the strands of hair in a plait, these entities were intertwined for a moment.
"The fringe he had in Seasons 3 and 4 was ridiculous. And I happen to be a hairstylist by trade, so it bugged me greatly," Panich says. "It took me out of the scenes."
And she's not alone. Rojas also didn't have kind words about the bangs. "I couldn't stop looking at them when he had closeups — so distracting during intimate and emotional scenes," she says. But even some bad bangs couldn't detract from the most powerful of Outlander moments. "I'm so glad the bangs didn’t ruin the reunion scene at the printshop, my favorite part in the book," Rojas adds.
Although the bang-hate wasn't universal with one person on Reddit claiming they loved the bangs, it was enough for a hair change in Season 5 to cause a grateful stir.
2020 & Beyond: The Bounce Back
Heughan was still rocking a wig in Season 5, but something glorious happened — "He finally stopped cutting his bangs," Heughan joked to EW while acknowledging the negative feedback. "There are always some fans who appreciate something while others don't. You can't please everyone all the time. But I'm pleased with the look this season. He's older. He's mature."
Most fans were simply relieved the bangs were gone. Rojas tells me, "All I can say is, yay for Season 5 and no more bangs." And Panich says, "I love the change they made for Season 5."
But Maria T. actually says this new long, ponytail look without bangs is her favorite, echoing Heughan's comments about it showing off Jamie's maturity. "Mature Jamie has my favorite hair. I think it has to do with his confidence," she says. "Long, lush, and pulled back, in a shade of light russet. He has an air of command and portrays the image of an assured leader."
Heughan's own hair will usually take the top spot of Outlander fans' favorite Jamie hairstyle, and based on the above tweet, Heughan knows his hair is a gift. So if the wigs are what it takes for him to keep those beloved locks looking their best long after Outlander is over, then that's the price fans have to pay. Just be thankful Jamie wasn't a blonde.