Throwing hair into the ring

Political figures and their spouses face tress stress in campaign season

The hair-care routine of Callista Gingrich reportedly affected her husband’s campaign schedule. The hair-care routine of Callista Gingrich reportedly affected her husband’s campaign schedule. (Mike Stewart/Associated Press/File)
By Beth Teitell
Globe Staff / June 25, 2011

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Hair has struck again. Superficial, to be sure, it somehow manages to work its way into almost every campaign, and this season is no different. Even this early in the 2012 presidential race, a hair-related scandal has erupted (and Donald Trump’s not even running).

In case you’re just joining the situation: Most of Newt Gingrich’s top staffers resigned this month, in part, NBC reported, because his wife, Callista, allegedly refused early-morning campaign flights because she needed time to get her platinum hair done.

Voters seem to invest hair with such importance that politicians don’t just have to worry about their own hair (Bill Clinton and John Edwards, with their pricey cuts, certainly did), but about spousal styling, too.

Perhaps no one understands this better than Hillary Rodham Clinton. Speaking to graduates at Yale’s Class Day in 2001, and recalling her hair travails as first lady (remember the headband?), she said: “The most important thing I have to say to you today is that hair matters. This is a life lesson my family did not teach me, Wellesley and Yale Law School failed to instill: Your hair will send significant messages to those around you. . . . Pay attention to your hair, because everyone else will.’’

The new Duchess of Cambridge (nee Kate Middleton) has learned this lesson quickly. She’s not taking only a dresser on the couple’s trip to Canada and the United States, it’s just been reported, but her stylist as well.

The truth is that looking good enough for public appearances, let alone high-def TV, takes a lot of time, whether you’re married to a prince, aiming to be first lady, or husband of the secretary of state.

The Globe asked several local hairdressers for a professional assessment. How much time would Callista Gingrich need in the morning before she could comfortably hit the campaign trail? Almost to a stylist, they said the “helmet’’ look doesn’t come quickly.

“It takes at least 45 minutes to an hour to do that kind of blow-dry,’’ said Clifford Bouvier, artistic director of Crew International, in Brookline. “She’s really bleached out, and to smooth out over-processed hair you have to do a lot of work. You have to use products that put moisture back in the hair.’’

Helena Cohen, owner of Ardan Medspa + Salon, in Wellesley, said that Gingrich’s hair appears to be teased, and that would add time to the morning routine. “She does that bump on the top that gives it height.’’ Time taken away from kissing babies: about 15 minutes.

Celebrity hair guru Sandy Poirier, at Shag, in South Boston, said Gingrich’s hair might take as long as 90 minutes, although he couldn’t be sure. He contrasted her high-maintenance hairstyle with that of a far better-known public figure: “Look at the Queen of England,’’ Poirier said. “She puts on that hat and she’s out the door.’’

Beth Teitell can be reached at