One man’s plea to keep hair styles out of politics

He doesn’t want candidates to become tagged with the ‘blow-dried look’ like bushy-maned John Kerry was in 2004.

While backers of John McCain and Barack Obama trade accusations about perceived policy flip-flops and character flaws, we should all be grateful that no controversy has erupted over anyone’s hairstyle.

When historians of the future look back on the negative tactics used against John Kerry in the 2004 presidential race, it’s almost certain they’ll focus on the Swift Boat attacks. I, however, was equally flabbergasted by Kerry-bashers who mocked him as the “blow-dried candidate.”

With those simple words, an element of personal hygiene was transformed into a cultural war chant. “Blow-dried” became an instant euphemism to describe Americans who were vain, shallow, and narcissistic. It was highly likely such individuals also used mousse. Heck, they were probably saluting the French flag every morning before breakfast.

By now you’ve probably figured out that I’m part of the blow-dried population, and I refuse to be stigmatized. Those blow-dry critics of 2004 didn’t care about my feelings. They were political demolition teams, and every time they launched a new salvo, thousands of guys like me ended up as collateral damage.

My blow-dry lifestyle is not wasteful or hedonistic. I drive a modest car. The house is not air-conditioned. I take five-minute showers. And every time I flip on my blow-dryer, the rush of warm air chases away distant memories of bad haircuts and oily grooming products.

For many of us who grew up in the pre-Vidal-Sassoon era, attitudes about hair drying were heavily influenced by the Lennon Sisters. In addition to their work on “The Lawrence Welk Show,” the sisters appeared in TV commercials singing a memorable jingle (to the tune of “All Around the Mulberry Bush”):

“This is the way we dry our hair, dry our hair, dry our hair.
This is the way we dry our hair, with the Universal dryer!”

The machine came in a small carrying case and included a plastic hood with a hole on one side where you attached a hose. My family owned one, and I used it a few times, with unsatisfactory results. However, I did discover that using the hose by itself to blow air against my head seemed promising.

But the Universal dryer didn’t include multiple speeds. The air came out at a modest rate. It had all the power of a chipmunk running on a treadmill.
It was an age of limited options for male hairstyles. My school photos display that reality with embarrassing clarity.

Thankfully, technology marched on. We sent men to the moon. Blow-dryers became available to the general public. For me, there’s no going back.

If anyone in the McCain or Obama camps is tempted to start a tangle over the use of a household appliance, I’d suggest vacuum cleaners. The bag versus bagless question has plenty of room for energetic debate.

Jeffrey Shaffer writes humor from Portland, Ore.

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