Apologies to George Washington’s curlers, but there is probably no president in history with more famous hair than Donald Trump. Or make that infamous: its veracity has been the subject of many rumors and theories—maybe it’s a rug, or possibly the result of a gnarly surgery. Now we’ve learned that Trump allegedly deducted $70,000 in hairstyling services while working as the host of The Apprentice, according to a New York Times report based on Trump’s tax filings over the past two decades.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that, as with so much in Trumpland, his is the most and best and expensivest hair. But Trump’s mega-expensive ‘do is just the latest in a long lineage of politically charged haircuts. For politicians and their opponents, a haircut is never really just a haircut. It’s a weapon to be brandished as proof of a public figure’s vanity, exorbitant spending, elitism, or willingness to bend the office of the president for their gain.
“THE MOST FAMOUS HAIRCUT SINCE SAMSON’S,” The Washington Post headline blared in the wake of the news that then-president Bill Clinton got a haircut aboard Air Force One as it sat on the LAX tarmac. That shouldn’t have been a big deal—except for the reports that with the president waiting to take off, delays ensued, shutting down two of the airport’s four runways for nearly an hour. In 1993, this was a massive scandal. (Take me back!) It made front-page news, and the Times’s story began on this ominous note: “It may have been the most expensive haircut in history.” Initial reports didn’t just focus on the chi-chi-sounding scissor work provided by Beverly Hills hairstylist Chistophe, but also the fact that he “tied up one of the country’s busiest airports to have his hair trimmed,” the Times reported. In the following days, it was revealed that the cut didn’t actually cause any delays at LAX. The Post publicly ate crow.
Most political hair snafus are like Clinton’s: inflated scandals that opponents eagerly seize. In the 2004 presidential race, Republicans spent a great deal of time trying to pin Democratic nominee John Kerry inside an ivory tower by way of his clothes and haircuts. Commercials against his election listed these expenses out: “Hairstyle by Christophe’s: $75. Designer shirts: $250…” a voiceover went, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Another rich, liberal elitist from Massachusetts who claims he’s a man of the people. Priceless.” $75! That’s all it took back then for Republicans to start waving the hypocritical elitist flag. In 2007, Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards was also sold as a hypocrite when it was revealed he paid between $300 and $500 to have his hair done. Wait until these guys get wind of what this Trump character does!
But, of course, those Republicans didn’t really care about how much those haircuts cost—only how they could be leveraged to their advantage. Nothing has changed: Last year, New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez found herself in a similar position to Kerry and Edwards as Republicans attacked her for getting a $250 cut on her birthday. The hypocrisy of Trump’s $70,000 hairstyling services was not lost on her. “Last year Republicans blasted a firehose of hatred + vitriol my way because I treated myself to a $250 cut & lowlights on my birthday,” she tweeted Monday. “Where’s the criticism of their idol spending $70k on hairstyling? Oh, it’s nowhere because they’re spineless, misogynistic hypocrites? Got it.”