Cutting remarks are being made about the high cost of the French president’s personal hairdresser.
François Hollande may be the most unpopular president in the history of modern France, but he is certainly among the most impeccably groomed.
In a season in which his disapproval ratings have approached 90 percent, even more gleeful ridicule was heaped on Hollande this week, when Le Canard Enchaîné, the satirical newspaper, exposed that his personal hairstylist has been paid 9,985 euros (about $11,000) per month since Hollande was elected in 2012.
That is about as much as a French government minister makes per month and is only a third less than Hollande’s monthly paycheck.
In trying to brush off the unfolding scandal, government spokesman Stéphane le Foll said, “Everyone has their hair done, don’t they? This hairdresser had to abandon his salon and he’s on tap 24 hours a day.”
For someone who had promised, in the midst of his election campaign, to be a “normal” president — as opposed to his flashier opponent, Nicolas Sarkozy — 9,985 euros would seem quite the bling-bling expense. Especially for a Socialist president committed to the ideals of social justice.
As Sébastien Huygue, a member of Parliament, put it, “For a normal president, [Hollande] doesn’t have a normal hairdresser.”
On Wednesday, the government responded to the report and confirmed the salary figure, careful to note that Hollande’s administration also slashed the budget of the Élysee Palace by about 15 to 20 percent when he took office.
The stylist was identified only as Olivier B., although a book that appeared in April, L’Élysée Off, listed the stylist Olivier Benhamou.
The hairdresser apparently has such a tough work schedule that he had “missed the births of his children.”
The terms of his contract mean that he is also sworn to “the most absolute secrecy on the work he will do or the information he may fall upon,” according to Le Canard Enchaîné.
The revelation — instantly dubbed #CoiffeurGate — led to an avalanche of outrage in French media, including a choice selection of memes imagining the presidential visage topped with any number of elaborate do-ups from past to present.
Over the years, the seemingly innocuous issue of hairdressing has been the source of multiple and memorable controversies for different politicians.
In 1993, then-President Bill Clinton was caught up in the “Hairgate” controversy when two runways at the Los Angeles International Airport had to be closed for about an hour so that he could get his hair trimmed aboard Air Force One.
In 2007, former senator and vice-presidential candidate John Edwards caused a stir when it was revealed that he had splurged on expensive haircuts and later had to reimburse his campaign $800 to pay for the cost of two haircuts.
And just this year, Hilary Clinton’s $600 haircut at an exclusive New York salon led many to question whether she was out of touch with ordinary people.
Perhaps the most unexpected expression of support for Hollande came from Valerie Trierweiler, the president’s former partner. They ended their romance in 2014, which Trierweiler then dissected in her tell-all book, “Thank You for This Moment.”
As she wrote on Twitter: “To be fair: F. Hollande did not know the hairdresser’s salary. I can attest to his anger when he later learned about it.”
McAuley reported from Paris.