Sorry George. Hair today, headlines tomorrow

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The Independent Online

What do Jerry Hall, George Osborne and I all have in common? Careful now …. On this occasion, it is not our enormous personal fortunes. Nor is it our love of literature – Jerry and I have both judged prizes but George's author wife, Frances, is the bookish one in the Osborne family. It is not even that we all have the kind of face that you just want to … photograph. What we all share at the moment is that everyone's going on about our hair. Poor us.

Ms Hall made headlines last week when she tweeted a photograph of her new haircut, which looked very nice. Not quite nice enough to qualify as a "where were you" moment in history, but that's how it was described. I know where I was when I heard that Nelson Mandela had died (the office Christmas party), and when Liverpool won the treble (the Wirral), but I've already forgotten the moment that news of the great Hall haircut hit me for the first time. Turns out I was unusual in not having much emotional investment in another woman's barnet.

I found out when I had my own long hair cut a little bit shorter recently that a woman's hair is not just her own business. Some friends told me that I mustn't. Others begged me to reconsider. The woman in the next seat at the hairdresser's leaned over and shouted, "Stop! Don't do it! You're making a terrible mistake!"

My thought had been that it would grow back, and even if it didn't it would be worth it to be never again mistaken for Rebekah Brooks by a drunk couple on a train. (Seriously. All gingers do not look the same, you know.)

It turns out, however, that long-haired women have a duty to keep their hair long, on behalf of all the people who either can't have long hair, or can't be bothered. (A recent survey showed that women spend an average 14,000 hours, about 19 months over a lifetime, doing their hair. Time that Jerry and I could better spend reading books.) Cutting our hair is a bit like what happened when Sophie Dahl lost some weight and people all said: "Noooo! We need you to be fat for us!"

I imagine if Kate Middleton ever cut her hair short there'd be a revolution; the state-of-the-nation crisis when she changed her fringe was bad enough. Such reactions must be because every hair on her head is so beloved.

Which brings us to George Osborne, who seems perplexed that interviewers keep wanting to ask him about his new "Caesar" haircut. "It's been made out to be some great big change, a bigger change than it was," he said last week. "There are more important things, dare I say it, for the country to be talking about."

Poor George, doesn't he know? He may only have had his hair cut so he could look different enough from David Cameron for their Cabinet colleague Philip Hammond to tell them apart, but for others this is a major news event.

Perhaps he just needs to copy his boss and tell them: "Calm down, dear, it's only hair."