When it comes to her hair, Hillary Clinton will never win

Stop the tresses!
Stop the tresses!
Image: Reuters/James Lawler Duggan
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This just in: Hillary Clinton (maybe) paid a lot of money for a haircut in Manhattan!

History has shown us that when Hillary changes her hairstyle, or exhibits a ‘do that is either conspicuously expensive or cheap, copious media coverage follows. Could her changing look mean she can’t make a decision, they ask, or that she doesn’t know who she is? Sometimes her hair is indicative of her status as an out-of-touch member of the liberal elite; sometimes it’s symbolic of her lack of gravitas.

As a hairdresser I occasionally fantasize about exclusively catering to one high-profile client. Considering politicians are constantly in front of cameras and in need of motionless, political hair helmets, I always assumed a personal stylist traveled with Hillary. An immobile coif can only withstand so many infant hugs and requires expert teasing, spraying, and near hourly touch-ups. Indeed, Clinton’s latest haircut kerfuffle surprised me as a hair professional not because of the price, but because it indicates she sometimes physically goes to a salon.

Hillary’s salon receipt hasn’t been subpoenaed by Congress (yet), so all anyone really knows right now is that she went to John Barrett at Bergdorf Goodman, and might have paid $600 (again). For those readers shocked by this gossipy tidbit, I’ve got news for you: celebrity hairstylists routinely charge $1,000 for a cut. The owner of my salon charges $500 and his clientele is mostly non-celebrity. Good hair can be expensive! And why shouldn’t it be? When you fork over major bucks on a high-end stylist, you’re really paying for peace of mind. A stranger is about to try to make you look beautiful by deploying serious chemicals and sharp objects around your head and face.

It’s worth noting that haircuts are universally pricier for women than for men. The weak argument typically used to justify this archaic construct is that short hair needs to be cut more frequently and therefore can be less costly. But do men with long man-bun hair get charged the women’s price just because they won’t need a cut for three months? No. The infamous pink tax strikes again.

And while the New York Post’s editors may blanch at an alleged $600 haircut, it’s not as if Hillary can win with a budget hairdo. And she learned the hard way. As a woman whose appearance has mattered immensely over her career, Hillary Clinton pays big for hair she must feel looks presidential, functional, and flattering. As US secretary of state in 2012, her longer locks were sometimes neatly pulled back with scrunchies. In response, everyone from the State Department to Elle Magazine called on her to “ban” the hairstyle. A Forbes opinion piece that ran in September of 2010 once called the secretary’s plastic butterfly clip she wore to the UN General Assembly “distracting,” as if the UN is a room full of cats and Hillary’s hair a laser pointer. And who can forget that time conservative blogger Matt Drudge implied she wears a wig?

The argument here isn’t that appearance shouldn’t matter, because it always does. Human beings intrinsically take stock of visual cues and make value judgments based on our life experiences and education. For example, what does a pantsuit on a woman say to you? Is she probably a lesbian? Is she attempting to assimilate in a male-dominated sphere? Is she hiding cankles?

Politics has a long history of coif controversies—both former US president Bill Clinton and former democratic presidential candidate John Edwards found themselves in hot water after getting haircuts perceived as too fancy. Image-conscious politicians (male and female) are scorned for lacking relatability, yet we act scandalized if they’re not perpetually camera ready. Donald Trump’s transition from pop culture personality to presidential aspirant has erased the already blurry line between politics and entertainment this year. But there’s really never been a middle ground for Hillary; she’s either out of touch with the average American because of her fashion budget, or she’s too slovenly to lead because she wore a hair clip.

Generally speaking, a woman’s hairstyle has always helped the public determine whether she’s perceived as old or young, rich or poor, professional or incompetent. I have clients who worry that wearing their naturally curly hair at work looks unprofessional, and they opt for costly regular blowouts. Others with long hair never wear it down in the office for fear of appearing too sexy. A woman in her fifties who wants to let her hair go gray has reason to believe that looking older will hinder her job prospects, so she’s in my chair every three weeks getting her roots done.

Hillary is spending her own money and time on her appearance, as most women do to varying degrees, and she drops a lot of cash on it because she is rich. It’s not a scandal. And it’s certainly not relevant to her presidential abilities.

And if she’s reading this, I’m available.