The $400 Haircut
Did John Edwards get his money's worth?
In its filings with the Federal Elections Commission, John Edwards' campaign disclosed that the candidate received two $400 haircuts from a Beverly Hills stylist this year. What do you get for a $400 haircut?
A house call, for one thing. The stylist who cut Edwards' hair, Joseph Torrenueva, normally charges $150 when men come to his salon, Torrenueva Hair Designs. But he traveled to meet Edwards at another location, and charged extra for the inconvenience. (Other stylists at the same salon charge as little as $60 or $75 for a trim.) Torrenueva told the AP that he and Edwards are longtime friends, and that he usually goes to Edwards, rather than vice versa.
Pricy haircuts come with other perks, too. The best stylists can individualize cuts for a person's face: For women, a round face usually looks best with hair that falls below the chin, for instance, while curls can soften the angles on a square face. (Click here to see different face-hairdo matchups.) High-end hairdressers also know how to work with different types of hair. Some people have thicker hair on certain areas of their head; an expert stylist can make a naturally lopsided head of hair look more balanced. High-paid stylists often have more tools in their haircutting kits: Instead of using only scissors, which work better for straight cuts, the deluxe barber might use a razor to trim and create a layering effect. A top-of-the-line haircut will also retain its style as it grows out, meaning you can wait longer before going back for another trim. (As a sloppy haircut grows out, you can often see the layering getting heavy and uneven.) Plus, the more cash you drop, the more likely you are to get bonus amenities like a hair wash, a scalp massage, or a private room.
So, was Edwards' luxury cut worth it? Probably not. Experts say his hairstyle—a straightforward, boyish part—is pretty easy to achieve without all the extra preening. That said, for someone who really cares about his hair, a little extra money guarantees a good result. Given the level of exposure a political candidate faces, a little insurance might be worth it.
Edwards isn't the first politician to make hair controversial. In 1993, President Clinton inaugurated the tonsorial flap when rumors spread that he'd delayed air traffic when he received a $200 haircut from a celebrity stylist while aboard Air Force One. (In fact, any delay this caused was insignificant.) President Nixon had a barbershop installed below the Oval Office for Milton Pitts, a charismatic D.C. barber who cut his hair regularly starting in 1970. After Nixon resigned, Pitts stayed on to trim the heads of presidents Ford, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush. A staunch Republican, Pitts closed shop during the Carter and Clinton administrations, although he claimed "my scissors are neither Republican nor Democrat."
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Explainer thanks Mason Saenz and Nikki An-Levi of Bumble and Bumble.
Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.
Photograph of John Edwards by Phillippe Diedrich/Getty Images.