That news story about China’s leaders wearing identical red ties, dark suits and helmets of jet black hair is absolutely true.
As the Communist party elite assembled for their annual Beijing pow-wow session last week, they were all wearing the same unofficial uniform, as the BBC’s reporters observed, rather unpatriotically.
As they stood, pillar-like, to listen to the national anthem, they posed, in perfect football team rows, evenly spaced apart. If they don’t have the same tailor, they contrive to look almost entirely the same. Indeed, trying to tell them apart is virtually impossible. Of course, dying your hair is nothing new, and everyone remembers sniggering as former US president Ronald Reagan whose hair went from grayish to chestnut and then rich dark brown as he aged. News Corp media magnate Rupert Murdoch’s hair has veered from pinkish to gingerish in recent years too, as his much younger Chinese wife Wendy Deng has clearly been experimenting with his image.
Former US president Bill Clinton proved that grey looks good on men who have hair. In fact if a man has hair, it looks good no matter what colour. And not all Chinese leaders dive into the dye tub – former premier Zhu Rongji last year famously let his go grey and he looked distinguished and distinguishable. Chinese website Weibo commentators had plenty to say about it at the time. "Take a look at the podium for the party congress, it's all people dying their hair and pretending to look young," wrote one commentator.
"Zhu's hair is so natural. If you are old, you are old," said another.
"Officials at a certain rank all have standardised black hair," mooted a third. "If you think carefully, how can everyone look so youthful?"
Much depends on the quality of the hair dye, or it can all go horribly wrong. If you use cheap hair dye and go out in the rain, there’s a distinct risk of acquiring dark blue tips to your ears as the cheap dye leaches out a blue-black colour. Not a good look, no matter who you are. In fact politicians should be very careful about tampering with their looks.
Some years ago I got trapped in the orchestra pit at the BAFTA theatre in London while then Labour prime minister Tony Blair made a passionate speech. He still suffered from “the nerves” in the early days of his leadership and was prone to perspire heavily while public speaking. He was also prone to slapping on a lot of panstick, as if it was polyfilla, in order, so he thought, to look better on television. Wrong. All that happened was that he got hotter and hotter under the fierce arc lights, started to sweat and the resulting perspiration dripped and ran off him. In this case, onto the heads of the hacks below, pressed into a tight space below the stage and unable to avoid the shower of liquid orange makeup raining down upon us. Not pleasant.
The moral of the story is, if you are rich or famous or both or a guy in the public eye, for any reason, dare to go bare. Discard the toupe, the hair dye, the cover-all panstick – even if actors do use it – and be natural. A little anti-shine powder is fine. As every bottle blonde can tell you, roots grow out quick and the male equivalent of corn-growing-through-tarmac: grey roots needing a touch-up, is a sad sight. China’s leaders might like to reflect on that.