Monday, 10 January 2011

Hair Today?

I have been thinking about the political significance of the rise of image culture and its effects on politics.

And it struck me, is a politician disadvantaged for being 'bald'? There is a famous anecdote about the British politican Micheal Heseltine that claims that a 'signifcant percentage' of his constituents voted for him because he had 'a great head of hair'!!

Add this to the fact that Blair, with a full head of hair, beat three bald Tory leaders and you can see that Cameron might be in trouble. At the moment Cameron is as visually strong as Miliband (and sounds much better, as he is intonationally and rhetorically superior to Miliband). But he may be in trouble on the hair front - and here Miliband clearly has the advantage.

Might baldness decide the next election?



  1. Likewise, I seem to recall that many people didn't trust Heseltine either, on the basis that he must have made a pact with the devil or some such, to retain such a luxurious head of hair (something similar might be said of Melvyn Bragg!)

    It is also interesting to note other connotations of baldness circulating in popular culture today, equating it with high testosterone levels, thus, virility.

    Given the essentially power-driven nature of politics, one might conclude that a visual marker of virility such as this ought to be politically advantageous? Or are we thinking purely in aesthetic terms here? In which case, Cameron's oft- remarked resemblance to a Teletubby can only increase in tandem with his receding hair line..


  2. I hope he looses it as ungracefully as in your picture!

    I'm afraid for Ed Miliband that although a full head of hair may make it easier for people to like a candidate, political nous and rhetorical skill may be significantly more important when it comes to winning elections.

  3. Yes, and Churchill 'did ok' too - but under rather exceptional circumstances and before the rise of TV/visual culture....

    I am not sure about the wider cultural significance of hair. It is just an empirical observation that poltical culture, and celebrity culture more generally, seems to prefer hair to the lack of it.

    And finally, I am really not sure that politcal nous and rhetoric is the clincher when it comes to political popularity. This is because the unit of political information is now increasingly the image of the leader! Politics has become a largely aesthetic affair, as Benjamin pointed out in the 1930s.



  4. The issue of baldness seems to have taken on an inexplicable high degree of importance in Russia, where they have managed to preserve an alternating pattern between balding and hairy leaders dating back to the 19th century!
    For example: Lenin bald, Stalin hair, Krushchev bald, Brezhnev hair, Andropov bald, Chernenko hair, Gorbachev bald, Yeltsin hair, Putin bald and currently Medvedev hair.
    Using inductive reasoning one might argue that, in the case of Russia, a nice level of balding may indeed decided their next election!
    Obviously I say this tongue in cheek but I do find the resilience of this pattern both amusing and amazing.