07.03.14 9:35 AM ET
Why Kate's Hair Matters
On Tuesday, Kate Middleton had a horrible hair disaster. Things started badly when she attended an official function at a North London school in a bizarre and severe up-do combined with two tresses of long, tightly curled ringlets cascading down her chest. It was a not-working-very-well cross between Miss Jean Brodie (in her prime) and Heidi of the Mountain.
But, tonsorially speaking, things went from bad to worse when her unusual new style started to wilt in the heat (the UK is experiencing one of its periodic summer heatwaves, and, as ever, we are hopelessly unprepared with a complete absence of AC). The curls uncurled and her lustrous mane went limp. Shockingly, Kate even appeared to be undermining the old English adage that “Horses sweat, men perspire and ladies gently simmer”—and the strands scraped atop her head began to cling to her scalp commensurately.
The pictures of Kate’s tonsorial shame were plastered all over the British tabs the next day, despite her charity co-chair, the comedian John Bishop, explicitly pleading with the press not to focus on Kate’s hair, but on the work of the drug charity MPact—which helps the kids of parents with addiction problems—they were there to support.
What Mr Bishop fails to understand—or perhaps understands only too well, hence his appeal—is that Kate’s hair has built up a reputation of being so perfect and lustrous that it has achieved an anthropomorphic personality in its own right. When Madame Tussauds unveiled their new waxwork of Kate, people queued up for a chance to feel “her” hair. Kate’s hair added immeasurably to the general gaiety of the nation. It has its own Facebook and Twitter fan and parody sites. And so when it fails to live up to expectation, when what Hilary Mantel desribed as Kate’s “precision-made” looks fail, it’s a big story, guaranteed to drive traffic, readers and advertising dollars.
Tuesday’s hair fail was the greatest public disaster for Kate’s hair since, in November last year, Kate was photographed with gray roots peeking through her conkerous locks.
She was mortified when the pictures appeared, blaming the fact that she had been locked away in the baby bubble with Prince George for her failure to pay attention to her appearance. It was as a direct result of this episode that she decided to take a personal hairdresser on tour to Australia, at a cost of over $10,000. It was not so much vanity as a realisation that a hair out of place—quite literally—on her perfect head can utterly derail the conversation she and her handlers intend the public and the media to have following her carefully rationed public appearances.
Kate used to be a regular at the Richard Ward salon in Chelsea, but is now a client of Mayfair-based Italian stylist Rossano Ferretti, who charges around $1,000 for a haircut and also attends to Angelina, using his hand-made ‘texturising” scissors. She switched to Ferretti on her sister Pippa’s recommendation.
Fortunately, for Kate’s next public appearance the following day at Wimbledon—she and William saw defending British champion Andy Murray lose in straight sets—Kate’s hair had recovered. The ringlets had been allowed to fall out and in their place was a gentler, Farrah Fawcett-style wave.
It was a look which suited Kate much better and weathered the summery temperatures more effortlessly. And, among certain sections of society at least, provoked a sigh of relief.
We may have been unceremoniously dumped out of the World Cup in the first round and knocked out of Wimbledon in the quarterfinals, but at least our national pride can still find expression in the crowning glory that is Kate’s hair.