A study by researchers at City University in London found that men responded more positively to pictures of brunette and red-headed women than they did to those with blond hair.
Experts said that as relations between men and women have evolved, the male of the species has become more attracted by brains, represented in their psyche by brunettes, than the more physical charms of blond hair.
But stereotypes seem to persist in the male mind, with redheads seen as "fiery", brunettes as "stable" and blondes as "approachable".
The researchers showed 1,500 men three pictures of the same woman, digitally enhanced as a blonde, brunette or redhead.
Asked to give their impressions of the woman's personality, just over half the men - 51 per cent - said the brown-haired version was the most attractive.
While 81 per cent of the men described the brunette as intelligent and 67 per cent said she looked "self-sufficient", four out of 10 described the same woman sporting blond hair as "needy" and lacking independence. Two thirds of those questioned said that the blonde looked friendly and approachable.
Peter Ayton, the professor of psychology at City University who led the research, said that blond hair had historically been seen as a symbol of youth that was attractive to men. "As the role of women has evolved, men's expectations of women have changed," he said. "They are looking for more intense, equal partnerships and appearance has a large role to play. It is even possible certain hair colours can indicate wealth and experience."
The study was commissioned by the hair products company Sunsilk. But the rise of the brunette has also been noticed by fashion experts. A league table of the world's most beautiful women compiled byHarpers & Queen magazine contained brunettes in the five top places. The actress Angelina Jolie bagged the top spot, followed by the model Christy Turlington, Queen Rania of Jordan, the film director Sophia Coppola and the food writer Nigella Lawson.
Uma Thurman, the star of the Kill Bill films, was the highest-ranking blonde at number six, according to the survey of 1,000 fashion, arts and media experts and plastic surgeons.
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