Hair apparent

In reading an article about Marco Rubio’s announcement of his candidacy for the Republican nomination, I was struck by a comment that suggested that his receding hairline might be a problem for him. My initial reaction was: What the hell? Have we sunk to such superficial levels in our political discourse that the amount of hair a candidate has matters? Besides, he seemed to me to have a full head of hair anyway.

It turns out that this hair question is really a thing when it comes to presidential elections, along with the now almost obligatory pop-evolutionary theorizing.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., won over many Americans in 2010 with his youthful looks, blunt campaign talk, knowledge of rap music and Cuban roots. It didn’t hurt that his wife, his childhood sweetheart, was a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader, complementing his image of a handsome, manly candidate. But in recent years, the good looks that helped make Rubio a GOP star have arguably begun to fade along with his hairline, a superficial fact that could nonetheless mean bad news for his prospects just as he is rumored to be seriously weighing a 2016 presidential bid.

Looking good appeals to voters’ survival instincts, argued a 2013 study published in Psychological Science. Researchers Andrew Edward White and Douglas T. Kenrick found voters are attracted to features associated with beauty — smooth skin, shiny hair, body and facial symmetry — because such traits are actually indicators of good health.

“Our ancestors frequently confronted devastating epidemics that wiped out many of the members of their groups; at such times, having a healthy leader might have been particularly important,” wrote White and Kenrick in a New York Times op-ed describing their work.

If Rubio does end up running for president in 2016, his best hope could be a clean start, Medico said.

“Having the initiative to shave your head before nature completes the job shows courage and a willingness to change when change is due,” Medico said. “Who wouldn’t want those qualities in a president? In the end, I believe that our society would elect a bald president, but not a balding one. We did it with Eisenhower, but then again his opponent was bald as well.”

The last bald president to be elected was Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956 who defeated Adlai Stevenson both times, who also had little hair. Lyndon Johnson and Gerald Ford both had receding hairlines but they first got into office not by being elected to that office but because they were vice-presidents who succeeded presidents (Kennedy and Nixon) who had full heads of hair.

If we take this hair hypothesis seriously, then is that why Rubio decided to run now, at the young age of 44, before his supposed hair loss began to show too much?

On the other hand, it is nice to see that the media and pundit obsession with superficial physical traits are not limited only to female candidates. Gender equality in shallowness is a dubious sign of progress I suppose. In the case of Hillary Clinton, the intense media focus seems to have shifted to her lunch food choices.

(This clip aired on April 14, 2015. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Nightly Show outside the US, please see this earlier post. If the videos autoplay, please see here for a diagnosis and possible solutions.)

This is the kind of rubbish that we can expect for the next 18 months. We’re doomed.


  1. polishsalami says

    The media obsess about trivialities to divert attention from the real issues. Unfortunately, we let them get way with it.

  2. Trebuchet says

    At least it’s better than Ted Cruz’s hair, which is stuck in about 1935. Along with his thinking.

  3. Heidi Nemeth says

    For the 2010 election, I found and posted about four thousand photographs of candidates for state and national offices. Most of the candidates were male. Most were well over 40. And most had a lot of dark hair with no receding hairline. Suspicious, I paid closer attention to said “hair”. Conclusion: there are a lot of bad toupees on political candidates. Makes me think that most of the pols with good “hair” are also sporting toupees -- just classier ones correctly positioned on their heads.

  4. Malky says

    Mano -- I use a chrome browser in Windows 8.1 and up until the end of Jan this year could see and play your Daily Show videos. However what I can see now is just a black box on screen and no video at all. Can anyone help here? I haven’t changed anything on my browser.

  5. Chiroptera says

    Heidi Nemeth, #6: Conclusion: there are a lot of bad toupees on political candidates.

    If for some strange reason I decide to start wearing a toupee, it will intentionally be a bad one.

  6. Mano Singham says


    Hmm, this is surprising. I know that TDS changed their web design quite dramatically earlier this year though I cannot remember when and that may be the cause too.

    I can see the videos with Safari, Firefox, and Chrome. Explorer is the one browser I don’t use so cannot test it. Can you try it with another browser and see if there is a problem with them too?

    If the problem persists, let me know and I will put the question out to the general readership to see if anyone else has similar problems.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *