When that great unwritten book of scholarship The Role of Hair in Modern Male Leadership comes to be published, it will reveal something rather mysterious and unexpected about the times through which we’re living. Attitudes to power and strength seem to be entirely different in the civilian and the political worlds.
According to research in America, the hairless male head now represents potency and decisiveness. Something called “the power buzz” is all the rage among shaven-headed business leaders, says The Wall Street Journal. One CEO said it made him appear more dynamic, another that it deflected questions about his age. A third revealed that shaving off his hair was “a highly leveraged marketing choice” – apparently a good thing.
A new survey bears out these findings. When people were shown some pictures of 344 men, first with hair and then with it digitally removed to give them a bald look, the results were startling. For every group, the hairless versions were judged to be more dominant.
In business, hairlessness denotes strength and confidence while an excess of hair – Donald Trump’s extravagant coiffure or the post-hippie shagginess of G4S’s Nick Buckles, for example – is regarded as suspect.
All of which is particularly puzzling during this party conference season because the trend in politics could not be more different. We have not had a seriously bald Prime Minister for over 50 years and, if anything, the prejudice against the differently headed has become more pronounced over the past 20 years.
Consider the list of failed party leaders: Neil Kinnock, William Hague, Michael Howard, Iain Duncan Smith, Menzies Campbell. These men of the left, right and middle share nothing beyond the look of their heads.
Bald men can still play a part in politics but they are always sidemen, playing the role of a brainbox (David Willetts), wise uncle (Vince Cable) or bruiser (Chris Grayling). Should any of these men step into the limelight, they will be ridiculed with many a dig at the way they look.
It is a long way from the sense of power exuded by those naked heads of the business world. The truth is perhaps that political leaders who exude too much bald confidence and decisiveness slightly scare us. They lack that touch of mumsiness which we now look for in politicians.
If there is something fluffy and strokeable about their heads, we seem to believe, the same qualities will be found in their hearts.