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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
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: Account Manager

    £20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

    Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

    £24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

    Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

    Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

    Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there