Since antiquity, artists have been trying to capture the beauty of Helen of Troy.
More recently, comedy writers, political commentators, and cat owners have been in the grip of another muse: Donald Trump’s hair, the bouffant that launched 1,000 quips.
As Trump surges in the polls, his hair has developed an identity of its own, one that has transcended questions of the candidate’s stance on Obamacare and his immigration policies, to become safe, bipartisan small talk, like the weather.
Even in an election season that includes Hillary Clinton, whose hair has been a subject of national discussion for more than 20 years, and Carly Fiorina, who spent part of a 2010 Senate run almost bald from chemotherapy, and famously sniped that opponent Senator Barbara Boxer’s hair was “so yesterday,” it’s Trump’s ’do that gets all the attention.
In the current run up to the primaries, discussions of appearance, especially regarding female candidates, have mostly quieted, deemed by many pundits to be sexist and misogynistic. But Trump’s look? It’s still fair game.
There are info graphics devoted to its structural form; compilations of insults; compilations of his retorts; a photo showing Trump next to an fresh ear of corn with silk sprouting from its top, and a caption that reads: “Who wore it better?”
And of course there’s a #TrumpYourCat meme, with photos and videos of cats wearing Trump-like hair pieces.
After decades of study, so many basic questions still persist in the public’s mind: How does he get it to hover above the surface of his head, like an airboat skimming the Everglades? Is it real? Is it a toupee?
Confusion reigns despite a 2011 Time magazine instructional piece. The magazine interviewed a prominent men’s stylist, who gave instructions on getting the look at home.
“Among the directions: “Blow-dry the hair forward . . . Fold and blow the hair back and to the side, in the manner of Conan O’Brien and Wilma Flintstone.”
The competition to lampoon Trump has been building since 1988, when the satirical Spy magazine famously labeled him a “short-fingered vulgarian,” a portrayal he disputed in Page Six of the New York Post.
“My fingers are long and beautiful,” he told the paper, “as, it has been well documented, are other parts of my body.”
Over the years, the insults have piled up. In 2011, at a White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, Seth Meyers said, “Donald Trump often appears on Fox, which is ironic, because a fox often appears on Donald Trump’s head.”
In 2012, Jon Stewart called him an “antique-doll hair thief.”
By 2013, the situation became so intense that Trump took to Twitter to defend it. “As everybody knows, but the haters & losers refuse to acknowledge,” @realdonaldtrump tweeted in April, “I do not wear a ‘wig.’ My hair may not be perfect but it’s mine.”
And yet, more recently, as Trump’s lead over other Republican hopefuls widens, even he may be rethinking the style.
If elected, he told the Des Moines Register in June, “I would probably comb my hair back. Why? Because this thing is too hard to comb. I wouldn’t have time, because if I were in the White House, I’d be working my ass off.”
Here are a collection of Trump hair memes:
Beth Teitell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter@BethTeitell.