Saturday, January 9, 2021

When hair decides to part for good...

New York Magazine
Written by Jim Heffernan for the Duluth News Tribune on January 9, 2021 

Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m pretty bald (and there’s nothing pretty about it). Calling it “pretty bald” is a caveat; I still have some humdrum hair on my pate but it’s nothing to run the fingers through.


Most of us balding men (some women are balding too, but that’s an entirely different issue) have spent years of denial and cockeyed optimism that it somehow will cease and desist, that you’ll end up with a full head of hair in the long run. Doesn’t happen.


So we live with it as it progresses, doing our best to try to disguise it, with varying degrees of success. In some cases, these vain efforts can be an outright embarrassment, employing something called a “combover” which involves growing healthy hair remaining on the side to an ungodly length and then spreading it across the baldness on top. See Rudy Giuliani before he gave up and now just dyes his remaining hair as the dye runs down his cheek on national television. Our politics has come to this?


Speaking of politics, outgoing President Trump apparently goes to great lengths to cover a degree of baldness — who knows how much? Only his hairdresser knows for sure. It actually works pretty well most of the time. When the wind isn’t strong, his hairdo actually resembles a popular style in the 1950s, with lots pushed on top and long sides swept back almost into what we used to call a D.A. The initials stand for duck’s…well, duck’s behind.


There are certain contexts of words that are not deemed appropriate in a family newspaper like this one. You could say Biblical Samson defeated a charging lion with the jawbone of an ass (the donkey euphemism) but you shouldn’t write that Trump’s hairstyle is swept back in a duck’s same word, different meaning.


Not to pick only on outgoing President Trump. Nobody seems to mention it, but I clearly remember many years ago when President Elect Joe Biden was in the Senate and he showed up on TV with bandages on the forefront of his head after undergoing a hair transplant. I think it works better than a D.A. but I’m prejudiced. Transplants are OK as long as corn or grass onions don’t come up.


Speaking of sitting presidents, outgoing presidents, presidents elect and past presidents, I have always believed that a good head of hair is almost a requirement for getting elected president of the United States. Think about it: most of the successful presidential candidates have had pretty good heads of hair. Oh, I know President Eisenhower was quite bald, Lyndon Johnson had thinning hair and Gerald Ford was as bald as a billiard ball (to put it unkindly in a cliché) but take a look at most of the others in recent memory.


John F. Kennedy, succeeding Eisenhower, had thick hair that was a great asset to his youthful robust appearance. Johnson followed him, but then Richard Nixon, with a somewhat receding hairLINE, appeared to have a full head of healthy, rather curly, hair.


Hair-needy Ford succeeded Nixon, of course, but he was never actually elected president, having assumed the office upon Nixon’s resignation and then defeated by hirsute Jimmy Carter, who shifted his part from one side to the other during his presidency. (Just think, that used to be considered news.) Carter served just one term before Ronald Reagan showed up with a Hollywood head of hair that nobody could top…or stop.


I once read that actress Jane Wyman, Reagan’s first wife, recalling their marriage, remarked that Ronald had a great head of hair. I’ll say. It helped get him into the movies and the White House, no small accomplishment in one lifetime.


I’ll jump to Bill Clinton next, passing on George H.W. Bush, who had a fine head of hair but unremarkable. Clinton seemed to be all hair, and he’s never lost any of it to this day. Taking us to the present, the younger George Bush had a full head of unremarkable hair like his dad, ditto Barack Obama, who defeated Mitt Romney, who you’d think would have been elected on the basis of his own thick head of Hollywood hair, and John McCain, very thin on top.


So here we are in 2021 with a president-elect sporting transplanted hair and an outgoing (boy, is he outgoing) president with a doo so complicated it’s distracting. Vice President Elect Kamala Harris has a thick mane of brunette hair, with perhaps some shards of glass remaining from breaking through the glass ceiling.


I’m going to dispense with Vice President Mike Pence, whose snow-white full head of hair suits him fine. It’s been said that snow on the roof means a fire in the furnace. You decide.


Hmmm. Dispense with Pence. That has a ring to it.


Jim Heffernan is a former Duluth News Tribune news and opinion writer and columnist. He can be reached at and maintains a blog at

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