Senior Gawker journalist Ansley Feinberg has written an in-depth story suggesting that Donald Trump’s hairstyle is the result of an expensive “microcylinder” treatment used to disguise thinning or balding hair. Entitled “Is Donald Trump’s Hair a $60,000 Weave?,” the investigative report is 3,479 words long, or about 14 pages double spaced.
After receiving a tip claiming that Trump received this microcylinder intervention, Feinberg began investigating the one clinic that performs the treatment—Ivari International. She discovered that, according to a website page from 1997, the company had a location in Trump Tower—on Donald Trump’s personal, private floor. The company now lists its only public location as Paris, perhaps owing to the multiple American lawsuits it has been subjected to over the years. Its founder, Edward Ivari, has no medical degree, and one judge called the treatment nothing more than “exorbitantly priced hairpieces” and “the functional equivalent of wigs”—violating the company’s claim that its results are indistinguishable from natural hair.
The microcylinder treatment consists of attaching strands of donor hair to the client’s scalp with thread and metal clamps. The initial treatment is $60,000 and requires $3,000 touch-ups every six weeks.
Gersh Kuntzman, author of Hair! Mankind’s Historic Quest to End Baldness, weighed in on Freidman’s article in the New York Daily News. While he has an overall positive opinion of the piece, he calls Friedman’s evidence for the microcylinder treatment “circumstantial” and argues that Trump’s hair is likely a hair transplant. The evidence he gives is what is visible in many videos of Trump: “a forest of individual strands spaced in a clear pattern along the hairline.” He notes, however, that the Ivari International link may still be accurate, as the company performs hair transplants as well.
While covering the ostensibly trivial subject of Trump’s hair in such depth might seem misguided given the seriousness of Trump’s candidacy—as of today, he has received enough delegates to be the official, rather than the presumptive, Republican nominee—it is undeniable that image plays a crucial role in a candidate’s campaign. Many believe that the reason John F. Kennedy won over Richard Nixon was that Kennedy looked healthier and more attractive in the televised debate. Hair in particular has been a telling predictor in presidential races, with voters overwhelmingly voting against bald or balding candidates. Only five presidents have fallen into this category, and of these, only one—Dwight D. Eisenhower—has been elected in modern times.
Trump himself seems aware of the crucial importance of hair among the electorate. Frequently at campaign events, he has supporters touch and pull at his hair to prove it is his own, rather than a wig or a toupee. As Feinberg and Kuntzman point out, however, this test is not foolproof: both hair implants and the microcylinder treatment would react like normal hair.
Given the importance of image in the electorate, Trump’s hair will likely continue to fuel media speculation. Even 3,500 words is not enough to exhaust interest in the topic.