Because he's worth it: Why hair matters so much to politicians

Few get closer to the Prime Minister than his barber, so no wonder Cameron's has been awarded with an MBE. And hair has always been big in politics, explains Andy McSmith

Say this for David Cameron: at least his Government has shown proper respect for an old and respected profession by awarding celebrity barber Lino Carbosiero a MBE. Cutting the hair of the famous is a sensitive task. Who else but the barber stands over a Prime Minister and talks down to him?

And what secrets can the man behind the barber's chair glean? King Lowry Lynch, according to an old Irish myth, would have his hair styled once a year, after which the barber would be executed, lest he reveal the dark secret that the King had horse's ears. King Midas's barber, in Greek mythology, was privy to a similar secret.

Mr Carbosiero, who charges £90 a snip for men and £150 for women, is the only person outside the Cameron household who knows the secret of the bald spot that is rumoured to appear and disappear at different locations around the Prime Minister's head. Yesterday, on Sky News, he denied that it even existed. Clearly, this man performs exceptional services for the Crown.

The revelation of his MBE was not the only piece of news to emerge this month concerning politicians and their hair. A document released a few days ago from the National Archives revealed that Margaret Thatcher had no fewer than 118 hair appointments in 1984 alone – an average of one every three days.

But ever since women have been in politics, it has been assumed that they must take good care of their hair.

That message was forcibly conveyed to the future Labour Cabinet minister Shirley Williams in the 1930s, when she was only eight years old, and Lady Astor, the first woman to take up a seat in the Commons, told her bluntly: "You will never get on in politics, my dear, with that hair." For a time, she rather bravely ignored that warning and picked up the nickname the "Shetland Pony".

But male politicians also need something substantial on top, because it is assumed that a bald man cannot win a UK general election. William Hague, whom the Tory MP Alan Clark described as "looking like a golf ball", was only the second Conservative Party leader in the 20th century not to become Prime Minister. The third was his equally bald successor, Iain Duncan Smith.

Thatcher's predecessor, Edward Heath, had a fine head of hair, of which he was shamelessly proud. He even boasted to a Conservative annual conference that "the barbers of West Bromwich have banded together and come to the conclusion that, seen from the back, my haircut was the best in the country". He then apologised to the representatives in the hall that this "splendid panorama" was visible only to members of the national executive on the stage behind him.

In 1961, William Troyack, master of the London branch of the Incorporated Guild of Hairdressers, Wigmakers and Perfumers, explained the political power that lies in a barber's scissors. "A politician seeking to make a name for himself should create a characteristic hair style and stick to it for the rest of his life," he said. "It becomes his trademark. People remember him by it.

"Dig back through history and you'll see what I mean. Disraeli wore ringlets. Lloyd George had bardic locks. Macmillan waves his and there are peaks at the sides."

He was speaking soon after John F Kennedy's sensational victory in the US presidential election over the more experienced and better-known Richard Nixon. Troyack had a simple explanation for how it came about: Kennedy had the better haircut.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Solution Architect - Contract

    £500 - £600 per day: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Solution Architect is requir...

    360 Resourcing Solutions: Export Sales Coordinator

    £18k - 20k per year: 360 Resourcing Solutions: ROLE: Export Sales Coordinato...

    Recruitment Genius: B2B Telesales Executive - OTE £35,000+

    £20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest developer of mobile...

    SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

    £22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

    Day In a Page

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map
    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
    Paris Fashion Week

    Paris Fashion Week

    Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
    A year of the caliphate:

    Isis, a year of the caliphate

    Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
    Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

    Marks and Spencer

    Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
    'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

    'We haven't invaded France'

    Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
    Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

    Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

    The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
    7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

    Remembering 7/7 ten years on

    Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
    Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

    They’re here to help

    We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
    What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

    What exactly does 'one' mean?

    Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue