Sacré bleu! French taxpayers were displeased to discover they’ve been paying a six-figure bill to style President Francois Hollande’s hair.
Virtually no one adores French President Francois Hollande. He’s endured protests in the streets over his policies and challenges to his re-election from his own administration. Last week, his disapproval rating dipped to 90% amid French voters.
But one man must be extremely grateful for the socialist leader, and his name is Olivier B. How could Olivier B., a Hairstylist by profession, not feel affection for a man who’s been paying him nearly €10,000, or approximately $11,000.00, of French taxpayer money monthly since he took office in 2012? It is not as though there is a tremendous amount of work to be done on Hollande’s fully receded hairline, with its stick-straight, easily-tamable short crop of soft-looking strands. But Olivier B. has made work out of it, nevertheless.
That, apparently, is worth $132,000 a year, more than European parliament members make, and just about as much as French government ministers receive. The average French person, on the other hand, earns close to $41,000.00 a year, according to the O.E.C.D., which is less than what Olivier B. makes in four months by pointlessly combing the head of a head of state.
But the French government would like us to understand just how difficult a task this actually is. Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll told the weekly French satirical newspaper that broke the hair news, Le Canard Enchaîné, that the salary is a reasonable one. “Everyone gets haircuts,” he said. “This hairdresser had to abandon his salon and he’s on tap 24 hours a day.” He must travel with Hollande on the bulk of his foreign trips—and, admit it, who would want to do that—and is so overworked that he “missed the births of his children.” Never mind that he is also given a housing allowance and other family benefits, according to The Guardian: poor Olivier B. never found a suitable replacement for himself at his own salon, making Hollande his only client and only source of income.
Evidently, whatever sympathy this was meant to prompt among the French did not take. A tide of rage and Internet memes has swept across the nation, in a movement dubbed “CoiffeurGate.”
That Hollande, a socialist, had called himself “Mr. Normal” during a campaign in which he pledged to rein in the excesses of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, only fueled the CoiffeurGate masses, inspiring a host of imaginary Hollande hairstyles perhaps more worthy of Olivier B.’s fees.
The French aren’t the first to cry foul over fancy haircuts on public officials. Bill Clinton caught some of that Hollande heat in 1993 when two runways at the Los Angeles International Airport were shut down so he could get his ears lowered aboard Air Force One—an incident the press dubbed “Hairgate.” Former presidential candidate John Edwards was shamed into repaying his campaign for two haircuts from a Beverly Hills stylist that racked up a hefty $800.00 bill. Some cringed when Hillary Clinton, no stranger to comments about her hair, supposedly spent $600.00 at an uptown salon earlier this year, and Sarah Palin made waves over her hair and clothing budget after she was selected as the vice-presidential nominee in 2008.
Needless to say, the difference here, is that none of these haircuts were paid for out of the public purse. The Clintons are rich. So is Edwards. Who knows how much money Palin has up there in Wasilla, but they can all decide for themselves what they or their campaigns want to pay out of their own deep pockets. This is America, after all, land of the free, home of the celebrity stylist. No one will ever know how much Donald Trump pays or how many dead animals he has to sacrifice for his coif—with the N.D.A.s and all—but be grateful it’s not coming out of your tax dollars.