Appearance and power

April 30, 2013

I was listening to the BBC this morning when an item came on about how the late British prime minister Margaret Thatcher's hairstyle has become popular in London since her death earlier this month. Hard to believe, I thought to myself, given that the bouffant style surely says, to everyone under a certain age 'older woman' (and depending on your political views, a lot of other things as well). I can't link you to the radio piece, but here's a Daily Mail article on the Thatcher hairstyle phenomenon. What struck me about the BBC segment was that the hairdresser who is apparently seeing this uptick in demand, one Maximilliano Centini, claims that some customers tell him they want the famous 'do' because their job is lousy but they can't quit because of the recession (which is very pronounced in the UK) and that a Thatcher hairstyle makes them feel more powerful. He's quoted in the Mail as saying this:

"What I like is that women are using it to give their lives and general attitudes a boost. Many of them tell me that they step out of the chair with more confidence."

Now, I should let non-Brits know that the Daily Mail is a Tory paper through and through (in other words they openly support the Conservative party and are natural Thatcher fans), so they would talk up a 'trend' like this. But I still think it's interesting for what it says about some women's perception of power and looks in the wake of Thatcher's death. An actress called Flora Raffles MacLoughlin, who is reputedly young (late 20s/early 30s according to Centini) and has assumed the famous do, is quoted thus:

"It is the perfect mix of feminine style with a hint of masculine power. I think for a modern woman that is now an ideal balance."

I'm still pondering that statement. Hairstyles are everything to many women - when our hair looks good, we feel good. It's as simple as that. And having a Thatcher do would certainly take care of my own hair's tendency to go wild at the merest hint of moisture. Still, I wouldn't be myself, which I think is another important element of style, and I'm not sure aping the coiffure of a famous and powerful world leader would, in my case, make me feel more like said leader. I'll take a slick blow dry over a Thatcher do any day. My confidence certainly soars after one of those.

My next show will focus on the importance, or not, of appearance to women's careers. We'll also touch on the part it plays in men's working lives. But no matter how you slice it, women seem to feel under more pressure than men to look good during the working day. I'll break that down with two guests who work in very different environments, one involving desks and computers, the other grease and machinery.