Over the years, the intersection of hair and politics has often provided fodder for controversy. A trim that then-president Bill Clinton received from Christophe of Beverly Hills aboard Air Force 1 that allegedly held up traffic at LAX in 1993 was memorialized in a Washington Post headline as ‘The Most Famous Haircut Since Samson’s.’ Presidential hopeful John Edwards’ much-publicized $400 haircut contributed to the demise of his campaign in 2007. And when Nancy Pelosi was photographed having her hair done in a closed salon earlier this year, she was pilloried by political rivals for dismissing pandemic protocol. But nothing comes close to the hair-raising revelations that emerged this week when Trump’s tax returns were finally made public. Among his many questionable deductions: $70,000 for Apprentice-era hair styling, along with an additional $95,000 paid to a hair and makeup artist favored by Ivanka. The still-reverberating shock goes beyond the sum itself, because it’s compounded by the fact that it was spent on that hair. Trump may be a man who likes expensive things, but the stuff on his head? It does not look expensive.
Hair is power, especially in Washington DC. Think JFK’s iconic reddish-brown collegiate crop, Clinton’s plush silver cloud, Ronald Reagan’s Old-Hollywood-hero swoop. A full head of hair telegraphs potency—it suggests that one has the necessary vigor to pilot a country through whatever adverse weather may come (and if it goes grey while in office, a la Obama, it is the mark of a job undertaken with requisite serious-mindedness). Trump’s comb-over coif has been a conversation starter since day one—its artfully but curiously crafted shape, its not-found-in-nature color, and, when it was famously lifted in a gust of wind to reveal a pink patch of bald head beneath, its ability to defy the laws of physics. Whether it looks to the rest of the world like power-hair or not, he clearly cherishes it as such. He has remarked in the past that he does not like anyone else touching it—and the very fact that it is so unvaryingly what it is speaks to a certainty he must possess in regards to its perfection.
Of course, the news of its lavish cost has sparked rampant speculation. How is it even possible to spend that much money on strands, presidential or not? Is it the care and feeding of precious hair pieces? Plugs? Tankards of the finest hairspray money can buy? In his book The Fire and the Fury Michael Wolff wrote that Ivanka claimed Trump’s color to be conferred by a drugstore product called Just For Men, so it doesn’t take prohibitively expensive advanced chemistry to concoct that specific hue. In 2014, Trump told Playboy that he wouldn’t let anyone cut his hair but Melania, but even if he were indulging the most expensive men’s haircuts on the planet—a barber in India, Rossano Ferretti, claims to charge the world’s top price for a trim, more than $1,500—that would still, by rough math, amount to a major shortfall.
“I don’t know how it could possibly cost that much," says Tommy Buckett, a stylist at New York's tony Serge Normant salon. "Even at top salons here in Manhattan, and I’ve worked at all of them, a men's haircut is going to be about $150. It would be more for a home visit, which I'm sure is what he gets, but not that much more. Unless he has a stylist who is charging him an insane amount and then laughing all the way to the bank. Trump is the sort of client, too, who probably thinks just because he's spending a lot of money for something that means it's good. But you can't buy taste."
The legality of the deduction is being hotly debated on Twitter, but stylists who work with entertainers maintain that such claims are not atypical—though the amount is. "Actors and models do have the ability to write off a lot of stuff," Buckett says. "It’s not unheard of for someone to write off things like work outs and hair care, because it’s part of the job to look done. But holy shit, $70,000? That’s a lot of money. I don’t even think Beyoncé would be spending $70,000 with all of her special wigs. Either someone managed to take Trump for a ride—in which case I say congratulations—or he's writing off a doctor or transplants."
Like so many things, we may never know the truth. But as a diversion from the increasingly fraught run-up to the election, it’s a welcome bit of absurdity to ponder. As no less an authority than Hilary Clinton once said, “Pay attention to your hair, because everyone else will.” And keep this in mind: the average price of a man’s haircut in America is $28.
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