What about politicians and their hair these days? After decades – centuries – of indescribable shortcuts, their crowning glory suddenly turned into a form of creative expression. And a source of controversy.
It often seemed like no one could beat Donald Trump’s incredibly complicated cream puff – until Boris Johnson, with his signature floating platinum locks (the ones he uses to distract, amuse, disarm and otherwise manipulate those surrounding him), arrives. at 10 Downing Street as British Prime Minister.
But then, earlier this week, in an ITV TV interview, a former prime minister passed them both.
Or rather Tony Blair’s long, flowing gray hair. There hasn’t been a former member of the NATO League of Nations who has dropped everything like this since President Lyndon Baines Johnson.
Although Mr Blair was on camera to discuss decentralization and the possibility of another Scottish independence referendum, it was almost immediately clear that his evolution from reform-minded PM with hair slightly spiky from the New Labor / Cool Britannia era to a Samson-like figure was getting most of the news. Social media comparisons ranged from Dr Who at “the painting possessed of Vigo in Ghostbusters. “
On the one hand, the hair shouldn’t have been surprising. Everyone, after all, spent the last year doing hair care at home, as Covid protocols meant salons were closed and grooming routines interrupted. Many people have discovered their natural hair colors for the first time in years, as well as the joy of the ponytail. So Mr. Blair’s hair got long – just like ours. Elders PM: They are like us!
On the flip side, however, it’s not as if Mr. Blair didn’t have access to home hair care tools. Unlike many, he didn’t choose to grow a pandemic beard, so cuts were being made. And his wife Cherie, or their grown children, probably could have helped with a cut or two.
In addition, the shows reopened in Britain on April 12. Which suggests that Mr Blair was enjoying his experimentation with hirsutism – at least until Judgment of the Watching World was raining down.
And this is where the lesson lies.
Mr. Blair’s hair came as a shock, in part, because we’re just not used to seeing long hair on male world rulers, old or not. (When it comes to women leaders and hair, like women leaders and their dress, the rules are different.) They’re supposed to have hair, of course. Famously, no bald man since Dwight D. Eisenhower has won the presidency. Hair = testosterone in the lizard’s brain – and since he was a war general, DDE was the exception that proved the rule. Former bald Tory leader William Hague (remember him?), Was mocked for the baseball caps he wore to cover his shiny pie.
But Mr. Blair’s hair was also a shock because of what it revealed about our own prejudices and expectations, not just female hair with all its many associations (Medusa, Lady Godiva, The Witches of Salem) , but also on male hair.
For both sexes, hair is, as anthropologist Grant McCracken wrote in his book “Big Hair,” “our backyard of deliberation, the place where we contemplate who and what we are.”
And which men do we associate with long hair, especially long gray hair? It plays a role in so many cultural traditions that it can be difficult to choose.
Long hair is linked to images of heavy metal rock stars and hippies, for example. And indeed, Mr Blair told The Evening Standard he hasn’t had his hair this long since his days in a rock band known as The Ugly Rumors at the University of Oxford. Which raises all kinds of questions about his later desire to relive them.
Beyond that, long hair is also reminiscent of the Bible, not to mention Moses (and any other number of Old Testament prophets). Additionally, he connects with Gandalf the Gray and wizards of his ilk, as well as Albert Einstein and the myth of the mad genius scientist too busy experimenting with electricity to face a combover.
Also poets, although their long flowing hair tends not to be gray, at least in the collective imagination.
What we don’t associate with long hair: the former world leaders.
Indeed, what Mr. Blair’s hair shows as much as anything is the unspoken assumption of the public that once our leaders step down from the highest office of any country, they will remain frozen as they do. ‘were by then, preserved in amber and the memories as they were when they ruled the state ship. Even though they were relatively young at the helm.
That way, when they reappear every now and then as former statesmen to bestow their hard-earned wisdom on the world, their authority is recognizable. Of course, we know they go on with their lives as private citizens, but they’re not supposed to flaunt it. This makes them appear inconsistent. (Remember the hoo-ha around Hillary Clinton’s first lady haircuts?) Unreliable.
As Mr. Blair apparently knows. He later told The Standard that he was heading to a barber “shortly”.