Three gentlemen and a lady came to Capitol Hill on Tuesday morning for their confirmation hearings with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. All four nominees, tapped for awesome responsibilities here and abroad, thanked their families and uttered statements about being humbled and honored by the president’s trust, then answered lawmakers’ perfunctory yet long-winded questions with the usual imprecision.
The men — Nathan Sales, George Glass, Carl Risch — arrived in their dark suits and their crisp white shirts. Callista Gingrich, nominated to be ambassador to the Vatican, was dressed in a bright blue jacket with a modest portrait neckline. They all looked spit-shined for the occasion. But visually, nothing could compete with Gingrich’s hair, which over the course of time has become a kind of platinum synecdoche for the woman herself. The hair — a perfectly styled chin-length bob with a side swoosh — is Gingrich. The hair arrived, and it was perfectly composed. It did not wilt under the spotlight; it did not collapse when lawmakers raised questions about climate change and refugees. The hair was controlled and proper and smooth. The hair did well at the hearing.
Glass, nominated as ambassador to Portugal, has shiny silver hair clipped neat above his ears. It looked as though he’d just combed a bit of product through it to tame any errant strands. But it only aspires to be as flawless at Gingrich’s. Sales has barely tamed curls that are burdened by extra-long sideburns. Risch’s hair is the equivalent of five o’clock shadow. The Gingrich hair is precise and decorous and vaguely unnerving. It’s unfashionably high-maintenance, and it manages to make everything around it look slightly mussed and disorganized by comparison. Those men tried to look groomed and primped. Oh, how they tried. They might as well have simply rolled out of bed and hopped in a cab. They could not compete with Gingrich’s self-possessed aesthetics.
Gingrich’s hair is tremendous. And, yes, she is a woman, and her hair is being discussed because it manages to be both utterly unique
and a marker of the kind of place that Washington — C-SPAN Washington, that is — once believed itself to be but certainly is no longer. The Gingrich bob is not ’80s hair; it lacks the telltale signs of teasing and excessive mousse. It is not the kind of helmet hair once associated with television news women; it lacks the necessary volume, except for a teeny-tiny bit of loft at the crown. The hair does not move or swing a la Anna Wintour’s timeless golden bob. The strands are not delineated; it is a platinum curtain. It doesn’t suggest the efficiency of Drybar hair. This hair has been meticulously placed. It’s fully vetted, dress-code hair.
The Gingrich bob is a shout-out to a mythic Washington: a place of order and comportment, stuffy but reliable, self-conscious, mannered, impervious. And most of all, studiously dignified.