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Politics and “Nice Hair”

August 21, 2015


Hair is featuring prominently in political discourse right now.  Here in Canada, one of Harper’s attack ads (you’ll be aware that Harper has announced an unprecedentedly long election campaign so that his wealthy backers can outspend and hopefully bankrupt his political opponents) concludes its sneering at Justin Trudeau by having one of an imaginary interview panel conclude with “nice hair”.  This damning with faint praise is meant to indicate that Trudeau is all style and no substance – “just not ready”.  (Incidentally, the same team’s attacks on Mulcair describe him as a “career politician” – thus positing Harper himself as somehow a seasoned veteran yet a spotless virgin at one and the same time.)

Harper’s own hair is strangely pristine and lifeless.  It is lego hair.  It resembles something that clicks neatly on and off his skull just before he turns to face the cameras.  Lego-haired Harper is one of the most consummately robotic politicians it has ever been my misfortune to have to share a hemisphere with.  His casual authoritarianism coupled to his dedicated anti-environmentalism ought to make me want to hate him, but somehow he’s not enough of a real person for me to hate.  I can’t hate a piece of lego.

Harper’s lego hair is such an emblem of his android-unheimlich identity that it had to be deflated and slicked back for his cameo appearance in fin de siecle Torontonian copshow The Murdoch Mysteries.  (Harper plays an anonymous constable who argues briefly about hockey with Crabtree before failing to recognise Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier.)

Stephen Harper and David Cameron are such similar mobius strips of moral vacancies that I sometimes wonder if they themselves forget which of them is which when they’re in the same room together.  Cameron has far more, shall we say, discontinuities – when it comes to consistent hair.

But I’ve already thought too much about Cameron’s hair.


Suffice to say that Cameron doesn’t have to worry about hair loss because the only newspapers that don’t already support him are the kind of newspapers that don’t believe in making fun of hair loss.

(Although I suspect that Cameron misses the days when his embarrassing hair lost was the most embarrassing bit of trivia he’s ever been connected with).

Compare the way that The Sun used to make fun of Neil Kinnock – a lightbulb with a combover.

In general terms, it appears to be a fairly secure maxim within psephology that all things being equal (which they never are) do not field a bald or balding candidate.  Above all – do not field left wing baldie against a right wing incumbent with anything that looks like a full head of hair.

Apparently the only successful bald US presidential candidate of the past hundred years (Gerald Ford, though balding, was never elected) – was Eisenhower.  Military baldness carries a certain authority perhaps – though it didn’t work for John McCain.  Perhaps military baldness needs to be associated with military success rather than military failure – no matter how “heroic”.

Donald Trump does not have “nice hair” of course.  But he’s landed aristocracy and so the rules don’t apply to him.

I do find this ruthlessly plausible triviality rather depressing and I can only conclude by reflecting that one great thing about being an eighteenth-centuryist is you’re exploring an era when all political players had their heads shaved close and wore wigs of pretty uniform design.  Those were the days when all politicians did and did not have “nice hair”.



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