- This is my daughter, who is interested in becoming an MP
- Not with that hair,
was Lady Astor’s devastatingly brief reply
Male politicians are not of course immune from tonsorial criticisms – Michael Fabricant & William Hague come to mind.
But these are both examples of the extremes of the distribution of masculine hair style – nobody used Norman Lamont’s unruly hair as a metaphor for what happened during his late night tv appearance to announce Britain’s withdrawal from the erm
Comment on male hair is almost non-existent, except for styles deliberately chosen as a sign of youthful rebellion or tribal allegiances – Beatles, Punk, Goth, Afro … and these of course are group, rather than individual labels.
In the 1970s Shirley Williams was often spoken of as possibly our first female prime minister – she had the intellect & the political nous – except that her unruly hair was often taken as a sign of lack of organising ability & discipline.
Margaret Thatcher kept an iron discipline over her hair. Bernard Ingham, unaccustomed as he was to working for a female boss, soon learned that time had to be allowed in the diary for her to make sure her appearance was just so before any public or media appearance.
Barbara Castle was noted for her red hair in her younger days, though this was more as an absolute gift of a cliché, to represent her fieriness.
Others, such as Cherie Blair & Hilary Clinton, have really struggled to find a style which suits, is easy to keep under control under the fierce glare of the camera & the media harpy.
It could be that any woman hoping for a successful career at the top in politics would do well to think hard about her hair at an early stage. There is a lot to be said for ignoring fashion & opting for something a bit staid, which will stand you in very good stead in the longer term. The Queen, for example, was the butt of a great deal of criticism, especially in the 1960s, for her frumpy style – in vain did her defenders point out that it was well chosen to suit her role: off the face & a good frame for the kind of hat (or crown) which, together with the simple blocks of colour of her clothes would make her stand out no matter how great the crowd.
So a good relationship with a good hairdresser (especially one who really knows how to cut), & who cares more about the clients well being & comfort than the cutting edges of fashion, should be high on the list of every aspiring prospective parliamentary candidate.
Long hair, regrettably, is out, unless you can find a secure & attractive way of pinning it up or tying it back – there will come a point when long hair looks simply blowsy or sad, & having a major change of style at what should be an age of authority & gravitas is just asking for trouble from the commentators.
And finally, it is a good idea to find a friendly photographer, & also access to a tv studio, so that you can learn how different your hairstyle may look to the vast majority of people who will only ever see you in 2, rather than 3 dimensions. The real you, with a smile & a convincing interest in the people you are with, does not need to worry half so much, if at all, about bad hair days, but that strangely distorted flat one does.