Hair in politics

Credit: Bloomberg

Here is a little relief on the light side, reblogged from my post on The Economist’s Democracy in America:

NO SOONER had Carly Fiorina won the Republican nomination to challenge Democrat Barbara Boxer for her Senate seat than the race became hair-raising. Probably unaware that a microphone was on, Ms Fiorina relayed “what everyone says” about Ms Boxer, which is, of course: “God, what is that hair. So yesterday.”

Hair has factored in politics at least since the Roman Republic. The enemies in the Senate of an up-and-coming young general, Publius Cornelius Scipio, tried to derail his rise by implying that he grew his hair un-Romanly long, in the Greek style that seemed soft and suspicious; Scipio went on to defeat Hannibal anyway and, balding, became Rome’s saviour. Julius Caesar was famously touchy about his receding hairline. And Julian the Apostate, Rome’s last pagan emperor, grew a shaggy beard to make an anti-Christian statement which became so controversial that Julian wrote a satire called Misopogon, “The Beard Hater”, in his own defence.

Hair remained political for the Holy Roman Emperors, from Charles the Bald to Frederick I Barbarossa (“red beard”). In the modern era, Kaiser Wilhelm II twirled his mustache just so. China’s top Communists have always amazed with hair that is ink-black at any age. Ronald Reagan’s was impressive, though he is now arguably outdone by Mitt Romney, who during the 2008 campaign warned fellow Republican Mike Huckabee “Don’t touch the hair.”

Women have it harder. Their hair, above all Hillary Clinton’s, is more analysed and yet they are not supposed to bring it up, lest they seem petty or catty. This was the charge against Ms Fiorina last week. Please. “My hair’s been talked about by a million people,” responded Ms Fiorina defiantly. Of late, that’s because she lost all of it while fighting and beating breast cancer. Her hair is now growing back. It is a short, strong statement.

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21 thoughts on “Hair in politics

  1. My favorite is the false beard of the pharaohs of Egypt. On certain official occasions, the pharaoh was expected to demonstrate his divine status by wearing a false beard secured to his face with a cord. So important was this strange object, that even Queen Hatshepsut is depicted wearing a false beard in her royal portraits.

  2. I saw this on DiA and chuckled. I do like how hair seems to show up in many different political venues. Though I never would have thought it has such long roots. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Everything old is new again.

  3. … and John Edwards. Mr. I’m so blue collar I just spent two days worth of your wages on a fancy-boy haircut.

  4. Everybody know the Bald-Hairy Russian Political Succession Theory? So elegant in its simplicity:

    Lenin-bald. Stalin-hairy. Kruschev-bald. Brezhnev-hairy. (Andropov and Chernenko are hard to peg, and see how long they lasted?) Gorby-bald. Yeltsin-hairy. Putin-bald! Medvedev-hairy!

    After Medvedev, it’ll be time for another bald guy. Maybe Putin again?

  5. My God, Andreas.

    You have to be crazy to think I would share that comment with Judge Blah. I’ve participated in two judicial coronations, not to mention observing the fawning and flattering that goes on by younger wannabes lawyers (some women, of course). Throughout the last 23 years, I have been his loyal jester, his Joseph, his Emporess–interpreting his dreams and making sure that despite all the silliness of power and attention, it is the little things that are the big things. Whack! Reality check!

    To be fair (because fairness is one of J.B.’s most important virtues), I have enjoyed some of the venues and certainly the “scene” that these events have provided me. My dad always told me that I would “go places” but I never anticipated this trip.

    Holy Roman Emperors? Does Carl Jung have an archetype for that one?

  6. Apparently the CIA thought they could take Fidel Castro’s power by making his beard fall out. Sounds like they should’ve consulted some brujas for that.

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