The bald truth about William Hague

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The Independent Online
At the time of writing this, I do not know who the new Tory party leader is, but I hope it is William Hague, because that means that the modest five bob I placed on him at the bookie's will have been changed into a magnificent, lottery-sized 25 bob. And it will prove that I can detect a historical pattern at work in the upper reaches of politics.

To put it another way, it was historically inevitable that a young, balding man should be elected Tory leader.


Because John Major was grey-haired, that's why.

So it had to be a young, bald man next.

Let me explain.

Twenty or 30 years ago it was highly unfashionable to be grey-haired, unless you were old enough to be grey-haired. If you spotted elements of grey coming into your hair, you hastily poured dye on to it. Well, it wasn't called dye by then. It was called Grecian 2000 or something, and described not as a dye but as a tinting agent or colour enhancer or coloriser or something.

Thirty years ago grey hair wasn't fashionable. Then it began to be fashionable, as younger people owned up to it. No longer did they dye their hair, they let it grow greyer. They even changed the name to make it sound trendy. No longer grey, it was "silvery", or just plain "distinguished". Then, after a Prime Minister whose hair was the colour of the sort of bronze ashtray you buy in cheap shops in India (I refer to Margaret Thatcher), we had a Prime Minister who looked sort of young and yet had grey hair. It was in fact about the time that John Major ascended Downing Street that silvery/grey/ pearly/distinguished hair become acceptable among younger men.

So, whatever else may have happened during John Major's tenure - and it's hard to think of anything else now except the Scott report and BSE - at least one major development occurred. It became OK for younger men to start going silver. Well done, John. Mark you, towards the end, your hair looked pretty white to me, John, but let's say it was silver on average. Which means you must have brought a lot of comfort to young advertising executives and marketing consultants who wanted to seem young but couldn't stop their hair turning silver/grey/white.

However, this wasn't much comfort to other young men who weren't turning grey but going straight to baldness. Where was their role model? What young, bald man could make them look good? There was the occasional clean- shaven poll like Duncan Goodhew's, but what men really wanted was a young, balding man who was still thought of as young. There have been good guys who have had not a hair on their head, such as Yul Brynner and Telly Savalas, and thousands of monks in Buddhist countries, but they never looked bald - they just looked clean-shaven. My favourite bald guy was always the black blues singer Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, who suggested teasingly in his songs that his baldness was the secret of his success with women. But what men needed, especially men who were getting thin on top, was a young, balding role model.

There was John Cleese, who started going bald and then acquired a thatch patch. Well, fine for people who had the time and money. There was Bobby Charlton and Robert Robinson, who carefully combed what was left across their bare pates. Well, fine for people who didn't mind looking ridiculous. But these were men who tried to stem the tide, and we all know now that there is no point trying to stem the tide. In the great Quentin Crisp's wise words, don't try to go against the flow - go faster than the flow. If you are going bald, he once said, cut all your hair off.

Which brings us to William Hague.

Once upon a time, William Hague stood up at the Tory party conference looking like a little boy and delivered a speech so mature it might have been dreamt up by a 20-year-old Tory.

He became famous for looking like a choirboy and sounding like a young man.

Now he is standing up, looking like an elder statesman and still sounding like a young man.

I would not go so far as to say that he has given baldness a sense of style, but he has certainly told people that it is all right to be under 40 and balding. He has seen off older people with flowing locks, like Michael Howard and Peter Lilley. He has sent out the message: "OK, baldies of the world unite - you don't have to feel old any more!"

It's not great as a party slogan and a rallying cry.

But it's a lot better than the Tories had any right to expect so soon.