Fake authenticity and pretending not to use hair products

I’ve consulted with an expert — a licensed professional with decades of experience in crafting the hair of men who can afford to pay top dollar for such services — and she says this New York Times profile of Mitt Romney’s hairstylist is ridiculous.

"No, he said, Mr. Romney does not color his hair." Its color varies naturally.

Mr. de Magistris, who gave Mr. Romney a $70 trim three weeks ago, agreed to share some of the secrets behind his most famous client’s coiffure in between haircuts the other day.

No, he said, Mr. Romney does not color his hair. Any such artificial enhancement, Mr. de Magistris said, “is not — what do you call it? — in his DNA.”

Despite holding its shape under all but the most extreme conditions, it is gel and mousse-free. “I don’t put any product in there,” he avowed.

The expert opinion: No one’s hair stays in place like that without some product in there. And the coloring used everywhere but Romney’s temples isn’t always done as seamlessly or artfully as it could be.

The expert also says this is all silly. There’s nothing morally wrong with using products to keep your hair in place and there’s nothing shameful about deciding to keep your hair the same color it was when you were younger. The expert feels its an insult to her profession that candidates tend to lie about this sort of thing.

Political candidates have to go before the cameras on television — that means lots of work on hair and makeup, lots of necessary product, just to appear normal under the lights in high-def. We never criticize a candidate for wearing a shirt that’s been ironed, or a suit that’s been tailored, or for otherwise looking more presentable than someone who’s just rolled out of bed. But after several election cycles of stupidity and silliness around candidates’ hairstyles, the current vogue requires them to lie for the sake of “authenticity.”

And let’s be clear that this is what we’re doing. We expect and require our candidates to appear presentable. And at the same time we expect and require them to tell us that they expend no money or time meeting this expectation.

I’m reminded of a story Will Ferrell and Adam McKay told about Ferrell’s preparation for his role in the movie The Other Guys:

"Gel and mousse-free."

Mr. FERRELL: Once I found kind of the right glasses for this guy, it kind of set the character off. But he’s a guy who’s very kind of well-put-together, but all of his suits are probably bought at the next step below like a Men’s Warehouse, not quite a Men’s Warehouse.

Mr. McKAY: Marshalls?

Mr. FERRELL: Maybe a Marshalls. And so he’s very sensible, very prudent with his finances, and yeah, so we try to embody that character in the look.

Mr. McKAY: We said a little bit, it was like Keith Olbermann with a gun … sort of the vibe.

GROSS: You mentioned the eyeglasses, and they’re kind of like the ’80s version of aviator glasses.

Mr. FERRELL: Yeah, they’re not — they’re just a little off.

GROSS: Those wire-rimmed aviator glasses.

Mr. FERRELL: As soon as I found them, we forwarded pictures to Adam, and Adam was like, that’s it. That’s the look.

GROSS: How did you look for them?

Mr. FERRELL: Just with the prop master and just kind of looked through a sea of glasses, and …

GROSS: The prop master brings it in. You don’t go to, like, LensCrafters and say, give me something very ’80s.

Mr. FERRELL: Right. No, I didn’t do that. But I did go to a — I wanted to give myself a standard-issue haircut, and I did go to a Supercuts in the San Fernando Valley and just walked in and got a standard haircut, and I then forwarded the pictures to Adam. And you kind of were shocked. You…

Mr. McKAY: It was a thing where we heard Will was going to do it, and in theory, it sounded like such a great idea, but you know, you have to remember, when you’re about to go into a movie, that look is what you carry for the whole movie. So…

Mr. FERRELL: I think your quote was: “We still want you to look good on camera.”

All of which is just to say:

1) Can we please drop the colossally stupid and disingenuous nonsense about pretending it’s “inauthentic” for candidates to do what they need to do to make their hair look presentable before the cameras?

2) If you’re a political candidate in need of some quality, affordable hair care in the Philadelphia area, I can recommend a top-notch expert who can, in turn, recommend some top-quality products.

  • Münchner Kindl

    This is what your politicans are talking about, your media is reporting on, and your voters care about – whether somebody does his hair or not? In the middle of a recession, unemployment, troubles in foreign countries with wars and stuff – your people talk about hair care?

    Do any of you weep for country, if that is an important point in the public discussion? Because I’m ready to weep for you.

    Is this tribulation force and Ellenjay making fun of Nicky Brauneck for his wavy European styled hair, or real life?

    You know, you’re putting all satirists out of a job with this much reality being a farce that’s impossible to parody any longer …

  • Anna

    MK,

    The other stuff is just too depressing . . .

  • Reverend Ref

    . . . I can recommend a top-notch expert who can, in turn, recommend some top-quality products.

    After spending about three years in the Chicago area, this sounds suspiciously like, “I know a guy who knows a guy who can take care of that for you.”

  • Lori

     Do any of you weep for country, if that is an important point in the public discussion? Because I’m ready to weep for you.  

    Yes, some of us do. 

    To be honest though, I think there must be a lot of weeping going on all over the world because the political coverage that I see from other countries is not what I would call elevated discourse. They may not be talking about hair, but they’re almost all talking about something just as pointless and irrelevant as hair. The 24 hour news cycle needs a lot of content to fill it. There are two ways you can go with that. You can use the time to really dig deep and talk about the details and implications that headline news just can’t cover, or you can flap your yap endlessly about trivia. The latter is far more common than the former. 

  • Matri

    Actually, my hair does retain it’s shape with hair products. In fact, it actively resists gel & mousse. An hour after applying, when it dries out, my hair will break free and return to it’s shape.

    Unfortunately for me… *sighs* That shape is “wire afro”. The only thing I can do is maintain it as a cropped top.

  • Anonymous

    Is this related to the still-not-dead-yet Republican meme about Obama’s crippling reliance on teleprompters? Because, you know, he’s totally the only president who’s ever used one?

  • http://joshbarkey.blogspot.com/ josh barkey

    And yet, here Fred is and we are, talking about the dude’s hair…

  • Apocalypse Review

    This reminds me of the time the Repubs trashed Clinton over a $200 haircut, and it was totally false to begin with.

    http://mediamatters.org/research/200702090015

  • Blank

    I feel for you.  My hair sticks straight out from my head, and the only control I have over it is how long it is.

  • Ken

    I like Terry Pratchett’s analysis in The Truth, where the Discworld gets its first newspapers.  Lord Vetinari, ruler of the city, is talking to William de Worde, editor of the paper.

    LV: So . . . we have what the people are interested in, and human
    interest stories, which is what humans are interested in, and the public
    interest, which no one is interested in.

    WdW: Except the public, sir.

    LV: Which isn’t the same as people and humans?

    WdW: I think it’s more complicated than that, sir.

    LV: Obviously. Do you mean that the public is a different thing
    from the people you just see walking about the place? The public thinks
    big, sensible, measured thoughts while people run around doing silly things?

    WdW: I think so. I may have to work on that idea too, I admit.

    (By the Pratchett taxonomy, people are interested in sports, buildings on fire, and good places to eat; human interest is humorously-shaped vegetables, old lovers meeting again, and lost dogs finding their way home; and the public interest is all that political and economic stuff that we really should pay attention to, except squirrel!)

  • ako

    Didn’t the haircut thing start as a coded way of calling Democratic male candidates effeminate?  And now, rather than admit it was a meaningless political slur, all Republicans are stuck going “What me?  Use hair gel in my career that involves frequent on-camera public appearances?  No sir, I’m not girly gay styling my hair!”?

    It’s kind of funny, in a depressing way.

  • Matri

    I say we make Mitt Romney prove his claims. On a stage. Rub some tracing paper on his head.

    Then watch Fox News blame demons with Time Stop powers.

  • Lizzy L

    I. Do. Not. Care. About. Mitt. Romney’s. Hair.

    It does not surprise me, however, to hear that he (might have) lied about his hair. Where others might look for veracity, he hopes for verisimilitude. What he says needs to be good enough to “pass,” but it doesn’t have to be true. Not at all.

  • Thebewilderness

    I was informed by a hairdresser some years ago that my hair was going grey all wrong. Criminy! How was I supposed to know there was a right way to go grey.
    Ronnie Raygunz dyed his hair and lied about it repeatedly for years. Why? I have no idea, except that politicians think we are as stupid as the corporate media pretends to be.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Can’t resist pointing out that $70 for a trim is not affordable hair care.

  • Anonymous

    When one makes as much as Mitt friggin Romney does, $70 is pocket change.

  • Tonio

    all Republicans are stuck going “What me?  Use hair gel in my career
    that involves frequent on-camera public appearances?  No sir, I’m not girly gay styling my hair!”?

    That was my thought as well, and I’m surprised Fred didn’t address it. It’s a bit like discussing the Mexican-American War without mentioning slavery.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    When one makes as much as Mitt friggin Romney does, $70 is pocket change.

    Oh, sure. That doesn’t make it affordable, though. It just means that Mitt Romney can pay for expensive haircuts.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Actually… I didn’t even know that until this thread.  I mean to be fair to me I’ve only been paying attention to politics the last 7 years or so, and I have to imagine this started well before Bush was in office… but yeah it’s not something I’d actually heard before I dunno how old Fred is but it’s possible he hadn’t heard it before.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Well with Mitt Romney we’re dealing with a man so utterly inauthentic – so very artificial – that if he did not use styling gel in his hair, that would be the most real thing about him.  That that’s also likely BS is… well Mitt Romney in a nutshell lol

    This is a guy who makes powdered cheese substitute look real.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667708632 Kenneth Raymond

    I’m reminded of a lengthy rant from the main character of Warren Ellis’s “Doktor Sleepless” comic, one where he completely trashes on the idea of “authenticity.” To pick up about halfway into it:

    “In 1938, sharp-dressed bluesman Big Bill Broonzy, who’d been tearing up Chicago, played New York for the first time. But a blues guitarist in a good suit brewing up the primal muck of rock’n'roll with drummers and bassmen didn’t seem authentic enough to the Carnegie. So the concert programme described him as a poverty-stricken farmer who ‘had been prevailed upon to leave his mule and make his very first trek to the big city.’ And they had them do acoustic guitar blues on his own. From there to his death twenty years later, he booked pretty much nothing but solo acoustic gigs. Because fake Big Bill Broonzy was deemed the authentic version.

    “No matter that he pioneered electric instruments in the blues, and was also recording with people like Pete Seeger, who wanted to take an axe to the cables when Bob Dylan went electric in 1965 – he changed his story in later years, but he was clearly offended by Dylan’s sudden inauthenticity, that maybe he’d been championing a fake all along – because no one knew, or everyone pretended to not know, that Bob Dylan was a fictional person. His authenticity was entirely constructed. Bob Dylan and Superman are the two greatest American myths of the last century.

    “Who the hell wants to be real?

    “In 2006, Bob Dylan’s playing ‘The Levee’s Gonna Break.’ Except the song’s called ‘When the Levee Breaks,’ and it’s by Memphis Minnie.

    “And she’s playing it in 1929, a few years before she moves to Chicago to tear up the town with Big Bill Broonzy. Who’s Memphis Minnie? One of the other great electric blues pioneers. And her name is actually Lizzie Douglas.

    “And she’s not from Memphis, either. Authenticity? Authenticity is bullshit.”

  • runsinbackground

    I blush, I sigh, I quail, but I will say that this made me think of something Dave Sim once wrote (in that part of Cerebus, which is the only part that I have read, in which he repeatedly goes off the rails due to his recent divorce from his wife) about politics: “We do not elect leaders. We elect televised portrayals of Husbands of Fathers.” Of course, the context of this is an extended description of the “Merged [or Female] Void,” which is everybody who isn’t in the “Male Light,” (that is everyone who isn’t Dave Sim, one of his buddies in the self-publishing scene, or “Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, the Continental Congress” and I suppose the philosophers of the Enlightenment who inspired them) as irrational, duplicitous parasites, which is not a view I espouse at all. However, I can’t help but notice that all of the successful presidential candidates I’ve ever heard of basically look like an idealized version of my father or grandfather.

  • Guest-again

    Anyone interested on red on red action? -
    ‘How can a 70 year old man have a full head of hair with no gray?The answer comes from Gerald Ford’s
    observation that “Ronnie doesn’t dye his hair, he’s just prematurely
    orange,” referring to the fact that “Orange on a middle-aged man means
    he’s been playing unsupervised among the Clairol”

    Or this, which shows that President was just another misinformed competitor, as seen through the words of a Republican image maker (and convicted perjurer, but what would that involves when judging the man’s veracity is left up to the reader) -
    ‘Deaver revealed that for years doubters thought Reagan’s hair
    was touched up, even sneaking into barbershops to steal his locks to
    confirm their suspicions. The reason people thought it was dyed, Deaver
    said, was that through his career and early presidency, Reagan’s hair was full, tall, and shiny. The secret to his silver-screen good looks: a little dab of Brylcreem, the men’s hair pomade. “He had that wet look, and when I finally got the Brylcreem away from him, people stopped writing about him dying his hair. It was the Brylcreem,” Deaver told UVA’s Ronald Reagan Oral History Project.
    Of course, Reagan
    knew exactly what he was doing because, even more than Deaver, he was a
    master image-maker. And apparently nothing earned his attention more
    than his head. Deaver recalled how people would always remark on how
    tall and broad-shouldered Reagan was when, in fact, he was just six-feet tall. And, Deaver added, “he had a little head.” Reagan had a movie studio trick to make up for it. His shirts were made with an oversized collar. “Well,” Deaver recalled Reagan
    explaining, “they told me in Hollywood that if I had a wide spread up
    here [in his collar], it would make my head look larger on my
    shoulders.”‘

    This stuff has been going on for a generation, at least – and as for ignoring the ‘effeminate’ slur, well, nobody accused Reagan of anything but dyeing his hair (apparently, we all mistook Brylcreem for dye) – the basic point, at least back then, was talking about vanity and what it meant in terms of image control. Which just happened to come into vogue when Nixon could handle make up in 1960, come to mind.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    http://imgur.com/gallery/W2Y5u

    The self-focussed insularity might also explain the fascination with Mitt Romney’s freakin’ hairdo.

  • Tonio

    In the middle of a recession, unemployment, troubles in foreign
    countries with wars and stuff – your people talk about hair care?

    On the surface, it does sound massively idiotic. That’s because it’s merely a proxy for phony anti-elitism and backward gender roles.

  • Anonymous

    Does he floss between meals?  Does he brush his teeth twice a day?  Does he shake his dong at least twice after a long whiz?
     
    These are very important matters that voters care about to determine if he’s worthy of leading the Republic.

  • Anonymous

    I read this post yesterday but didn’t bother to post because I was on my smartphone.  But when I read this, it first made me think of an issue that comes up frequently on feminist blogs: society’s expectation for women to be effortlessly beautiful.  Women with small breasts are unsexy, but women with implants are slutty or vain.  Fat women are just plain gross, but women with eating disorders are pitiable or sensitive, and women who eat salads on dates are just no fun at all.

    And it’s really sad to see more of this happening, because it is a real double-bind that many politicians face, both male and female.  When I want equality, this isn’t the kind I was hoping for.

  • alastor

    I agree that there’s nothing wrong with using product, but there’s coloring is kind of duplicitous since its an attempt to look younger than you actually are. 

  • Lori

    I agree that there’s nothing wrong with using product, but there’s
    coloring is kind of duplicitous since its an attempt to look younger
    than you actually are.

    IMO it’s only duplicitous if a person is actively lying about their age. Even them in most cases I don’t think that’s the worst sin in the world. Our society engages in pervasive ageism. If people want everyone to go with the natural look they’re going to need to reverse that and stop judging people negatively for the horrific sin of being old.

    IOW, you’ll get my hair color when I chose to give it up. That may be in a few years, or when I move into the old folks home, or it may not be until you pry it out of my cold, dead hand.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    @alastor: So that time seven years ago when I colored my hair to hide the gray, I was trying to look younger than 25?

  • Lori

    I started showing significant gray at 16. At this point I have no idea what color the non-gray part of my hair even is because its been so long since I’ve seen it.

  • Chloe Lewis

    it is a real double-bind that many politicians face, both male and
    female.  When I want equality, this isn’t the kind I was hoping for.

    Well put! I was thinking about the ‘naturally beautiful’ double-bind, too. Further thoughts:

    Valuing the ‘natural’ look could be a counterweight to the demands for constant preening, if it removed the reward beyond some level of effort. When `over-preening’ is rewarded, we get rewarded for preening and lying about it. Worse, unlimited interventions seem to narrow the kinds of beauty that are acceptable, viz. breasts of the Currently Correct Size.

    When I look at Presidential hair news and weep for my country, it isn’t because we can’t talk about the important stuff instead, it’s because feigning authenticity really is important. It’s important because so many of us believe that really, really meaning to fix things actually works, but only if you’re not an expert. Bad movies have ruined our sense of metaphysics as well as physics, I’d say.

  • http://twitter.com/Brett_Cottrell Brett Cottrell

    Romney insincere?  Well, yeah, that sounds about right.
    Five things you don’t know about Romney’s religion, and why he’ll sweep the Casserole Belt.
    http://brettcottrell.blogspot.com/2011/11/five-things-you-didnt-know-about-mitt.html

  • Albanaeon

    Why I really don’t care about Romney’s hair (his politics are garbage and no amount of hair products or lack thereof will change my opinion of them), I will say that I am not impressed by his need to lie about his hair.  Still, compared to say, buying a ranch to pretend you’re a cowboy, lying about his hair is almost innocent attempt to act authentic.

  • Anonymous

    Do you have a citation that doesn’t go to your own blog?

  • WingedBeast

    Whether in our celebrities or our politicians, we demand perfection.  They must look picture perfect and have the perfect public image at all times.
     
    But, we decry efforts to achieve perfection as “hoity toity” acts of people who think they’re better than us.  People who make such efforts aren’t being “real”, hence they are being inauthentic.
     
    People are supposed to have no flaw, in order to achieve high office, but they must make no effort in order eliminate any flaw.  Sometimes, such requirements even extend to acting like someone who has an education.
     
    This in mind, Mitt Romney’s presenting himself as someone with naturally perfect hair is necessary.  Mitt Romney the person will never win any votes.  Neither, in this day and age, would George Washington the person, John Adams the person, Thomas Jefferson the person, Abraham Lincoln the person, FDR the person, JFK the person.  Neither would Benjamin Franklin the person, B. Anthony the person, Martin Luther King Jr the person, David Crockett the person.  Neither would Abraham the person, Issaac the person, Moses the person, Paul the person, or even Jesus the person.
     
    Only the Public Image can earn votes.  The Public Image isn’t a person.  If it is crafted well, the Public Image would be an impossible hman being.

    In this much, we can give Mitt Romney a pass.  He lives in a world where he cannot have a hair out of place but cannot be allowed to let it out in public that he makes any effort to avoid sucha  fate.  Yet, at the same time, he’s not allowed to have too easy a time keeping his hairs in place.

    From a PR perspective, our politicians would do well to avoid the mistake of existing.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Exactly twice. Any more than that and he’s playing with himself ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    One of my President books speculated that FDR probably wouldn’t have been elected in the modern era, because his physical disabilities would have been almost to cover up. Honestly, I’m not sure if significantly more progressive attitudes about persons with disabilities would have offset the damage of the 24 hour news nonsense brigade.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    One wonders how badly the right-wing noise machine would have blown up the Republicans’ claiming FDR wasted millions having a plane turned around for his dog.

    http://youtu.be/qqt7b9veFo8

  • http://twitter.com/Brett_Cottrell Brett Cottrell

    I’d be more than a little worried about my sanity if I cited a scholarly article about Mormons liking casserole and being partially composed of it.  That’s just my own experience growing up out west with an extended Mormon family. 

    As for the five statements I made on my blog. 
     
    1) Casserole – see above.

    2) RE Joseph Smith’s bartender, personal friend, bodyguard and all-out fantastic frontiersman Orrin Porter Rockwell, I suggest, “Orrin Porter Rockwell: Man of God, Son of Thunder,” by Harold Schindler.  It’s dry reading, but quite fair in it’s portrayal.  Rockwell was a childhood friend of Smith and died as one of the Quorom of the 70 in SLC (he even helped rescue the Donner Party).
    http://www.amazon.com/Orrin-Porter-Rockwell-Man-Thunder/dp/087480440X

    3) I claim that Mormon garments are not in fact magic – they’re just visually uninspiring.  I don’t need to cite for my opinion – but if you want to cite an article backing up a claim for any magic properties they might have, I’d like to see it.

    4) Mormons believe that after the resurrection Jesus came to the new world and preached to the Nephites, a lost tribe of Israel.  Cite: Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants.  To any Mormon this is common knowledge and needs citing like Colonel Sanders needs chicken.  See also http://lds.org/scriptures/bofm/1-ne?lang=eng

    5) Patriarchal Blessings: http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?locale=0&sourceId=17517c2fc20b8010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&vgnextoid=bbd508f54922d010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD
    Both my parents received one – as did most of my cousins.

  • Lori

     One of my President books speculated that FDR probably wouldn’t have been elected in the modern era, because his physical disabilities would have been almost to cover up. Honestly, I’m not sure if significantly more progressive attitudes about persons with disabilities would have offset the damage of the 24 hour news nonsense brigade. 

    Sad to say, IMO the answer is that there is not a chance in hell that a person with a significant disability could be elected president now. Attitudes toward disability have improves, but not nearly enough to offset the movie star demands of the current reporting climate. If FDR was running now his campaign would collapse before the Iowa caucases under a tidal wave of yammering about how he just doesn’t look “presidential” and “concerns” that his health would render him unable to keep up with the demands of the office and blah, blah, blah. 

    Per a recent poll by Public Policy Polling Abraham Lincoln has the highest approval rating of anyone they asked about his favorable/unfavorable rating was 91/2, which put him ahead of Jesus who polled at 90/3. 

    http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2011/11/whos-more-popular-than-aaron-rodgers.html

    Old Abe couldn’t get elected today even if the survival of the nation once again depended on him. He wasn’t good looking enough, people hated his wife and he suffered from migraines bad enough that they often did keep him from being able to work. 

    That’s part of the reason we had a camera-ready faux rancher in the White House on the day we needed a leader more than we had in 4+ decades. That in turn is a major reason we’re so far up shit creek without a paddle now. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    I started going grey at 26. It appears to have been primarily stress-induced.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    Old Abe couldn’t get elected today even if the survival of the nation
    once again depended on him. He wasn’t good looking enough, people hated
    his wife and he suffered from migraines bad enough that they often did
    keep him from being able to work.

    And of course his higher-pitched voice would see him characterized as “effeminate” with everything that would follow from that.

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    I’m sorry. All I can think of is that Greek myth about “King Minos has ass’s ears!” It’s a “can’t keep secrets from your hairdresser” thing.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I’m not saying it’s related, but I found my first gray hair at 22, shortly after my dad had a heart attack.


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