What is it About Hair?
Now that my hair has become severely diminished, I am left wondering: Does that make me a bad person? You have to wonder about things like that in a culture like this.
Growing up in Jamaica I became, of course, familiar with the terms “good hair” and “bad hair.” And I am aware of the massive fortunes people – especially women – spend on their hair. But I never dreamed hair would become an issue in America’s choice of a President. Certainly not in times like these.
What got me thinking about hair in politics this morning was yesterday’s exchange between Bernie Sanders and Ana Marie Cox of the New York Times Magazine.
“Do you think it’s fair that Hillary’s hair gets a lot more scrutiny than yours does?” Ms. Cox asked. Here’s Bernie’s reply:
Hillary’s hair gets more scrutiny than my hair? Is that what you’re asking? Ana, I don’t mean to be rude here. I am running for president of the United States on serious issues, OK? Do you have serious questions?
To me, and probably to you, that’s an eminently reasonable response. Surely, what’s inside a candidate’s head is a lot more important than what’s on the outside? But before you stand up and cheer for Bernie, stop and think. Have Americans elected a bald President since Ike?
John Kennedy had great hair. George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, “Poppy” Bush, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon… All had a healthy head of hair. (Yes, Barack Obama’s hair is not the traditional European kind and he keeps it shorn close but it looks quite robust.)
And consider Donald Trump’s hair. It has been ridiculed so much that he has started wearing a cap.
And it’s not just an American phenomenon.
When I was a young reporter in Canada, there was an eminently qualified candidate for Prime Minister named Robert Stanfield, but he didn’t have a chance of getting elected – not with his balding head.
As far as I know, hair has no useful function unless you’re a farmer in a hot climate who can’t afford a hat. But it has somehow been elevated to iconic status around the civilized world. Is there some vast marketing machine at work here? Some deep-rooted psychological trigger?
Beats me. I have no idea.
I am left to comfort myself with this old joke:
God made only a few perfect heads. The rest he had to cover with hair.
(Photos above… I don’t eally need to identify Trump, Hillary and Bernie, do I?)