SLIGHTLY SKEWED (COLUMN) — News item: North Korea watchers are debunking reports that president Kim Jong Un has ordered his countrymen to adopt his distinctive hairstyle.
It now seems doubtful that North Korean male college students were, as was widely rumoured last week, instructed to sport a Dear Leader shaved-on-the-sides, dead-rat-on-the-top haircut (or, as I call it, the Reverse Knox).
It wouldn’t be the first time a Kim Jong Un hoax had gone viral, as when Chinese state media repeated a satirical story about Dennis Rodman’s BFF being named the Sexiest Man Alive.
Still, wouldn’t want to give Chairman Stephen any ideas. A leader who insists on the government of Canada being referred to as the “Harper government” wouldn’t stop short of ordering his citizens/subjects to copy his hairdo, too.
That bar might be set too high for some of us. Remember that in 2012 our prime minister topped the New York Times Magazine’s Well-Coiffed World Leaders list. “Possibly the best-defined side part in the Western Hemisphere,” the magazine declared.
Of course, you get what you pay for. After it was discovered that Harper’s personal stylist accompanied him abroad on the public’s dime, he was pilloried for his grooming-related expenses — though really, they don’t seem out of line given that he has to ship his hair to Mattel for servicing.
His opponents take care over their appearances, too. Thomas Mulcair sports the Scowling Beaver bearded look, which might be enough to guarantee the New Democrats sink back down to third place, where they feel more comfortable.
Liberal Justin Timberla… er, Trudeau has shorn his tousled panty-removing mop in an attempt to look more statesmanlike, but that might have cost him the Young and the Restless vote. Also, people who were mesmerized by his hair might now pay attention to what comes out of his mouth, which could prove a problem.
The Greens? Dreadlocked dreamers. The Bloc Québécois? They care about hair so much that they want to ban head scarves.
If all this sounds like petty jealousy on behalf of the lucklessly lockless, that’s because it is. If I had a Harper helmet or Trudeau tresses, I wouldn’t cut it off, I’d take it out for dinner, buy it gifts, send it flowers.
That’s because a good head of hair is a valuable commodity in this world, particularly in politics. “It is assumed that a bald man cannot win a U.K. general election,” wrote Britain’s Independent this year in reporting on the decision to bestow an MBE on the celebrity barber who covered up Prime Minister David Cameron’s bald spot.
“We are going the way of America, where if you are a man and you hope to achieve political success you have to have a thick, lustrous mane of richly tinted auburn,” wrote the Telegraph’s Andrew Brown in covering the same story. Americans “would rather you have plenty of hair, whatever its origin, than none. And they don’t seem to mind if the orange-brown colour makes you look as if you’ve just dipped your head in an inkpot.”
Give this to Harper, then: He hasn’t been afraid to go grey. Still, is his hair otherwise too perfect?
Harper can be compared to U.S. politician Mitt Romney, whose hair not only had its own Facebook page (really) but made a political statement. “By far his most distinctive physical feature, Mr. Romney’s head of impeccably coiffed black hair has become something of a cosmetological Rorschach test on the campaign trail,” wrote the New York Times, “with many seeing in his thick locks everything they love and loathe about the Republican candidate for the White House. (Commanding, reassuring, presidential, crow fans; too stiff, too slick, too perfect, complain critics.)”
Likewise, Harper’s hair is a reflection of himself: businesslike, ultra-controlled, no tolerance for messy independence or dissenting strays.
Or maybe it’s a reflection on the rest of us. If politicians are inordinately hair-conscious, it’s because voters are so affected by style over substance that we have forced them to be that way.
By the way, the No. 3 spot on that New York Times list of well-coiffed world leaders? Kim Jong Un.
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