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
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
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: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

    Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

    £13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

    £16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence