A recent bombshell New York Times report revealed that President Donald Trump paid only $750 in federal income taxes in both 2016 and 2017, but an almost equally befuddling part of that report had to do with his hair.
The explosive new story, which details revelations like Trump writing off payments to daughter Ivanka Trump as “consulting fees” and debts of $421 million, also states he wrote off a whopping $70,000 on hairstyling expenses as host of “The Apprentice.”
On behalf of those of us who have overdrawn our bank accounts shelling out $300 for highlights, we must ask: How?
A request for answers from professionals on a beauty and style page on Facebook left me with some answers I expected: It’s possible but not probable; it could be due to a high day rate or medical procedure (like hair plugs); or perhaps some of that money goes toward NDAs that prevent stylists from disclosing details of their services. But the general consensus appeared to be that it would be pretty difficult to get to that number on salon services alone.
Joey Silvestera, founder of Blackstones and Five Wits salons in New York City, said he believes there are one of two scenarios at play here, but only one seems to him to be in the realm of possibility.
“When you do the math over a 12-month period, even if he went to a top stylist and colorist and went every four weeks, which most males do, it’s virtually impossible to hit those numbers,” he told HuffPost over the phone. “Unless there was some sort of medical treatment that year like hair plugs ― which still would be under $20,000 for one treatment ― I don’t think it’s very likely.”
The less cutting and more logical explanation, Silvestera said, is that Trump had a hairstylist on retainer, working for a salary of $70,000.
“That’s a normal salary for a mid-level hairdresser in places like New York City or Los Angeles, where it’s high fashion and a hard cost of living,” he said. “If he has a hairdresser who follows him around for photos, appearances, to make sure his hair is OK. It would include styling daily, haircutting, coloring, it sounds about right.”
Silvestera pointed to hairdressers he knows who work for morning news programs and make between $80,000 to $100,000. So while he said it’s easy to see how social media would twist it, the amount doesn’t seem too far-fetched.
However, if that’s not the case, Silvestera called the fees “the most expensive hair services I’ve ever heard of on the planet.”
Ashley Watts, a professional hair and makeup artist based in Raleigh, North Carolina, who also does commercial and editorial work, agreed that the amount is feasible. Her calculations, however, break it down in a slightly different way.
“On average for a political appearance, I make $500 to $1,500 for styling depending on the job, the person, the amount of time I need to be there, etc.,” she said. “But typically stylists who do this type of work are paid per day, on location, and most of us in the political world have to have high clearance to even be in the same room with politicians ― something also common with celebrities.”
According to that logic, Watts said she would guess the stylist is being paid $1,000 minimum per appearance. Calculate that out weekly for a year and you get $52,000 for the stylist fee alone.
Watts also made an educated — but unfounded — guess that Trump may wear a hair piece, which could contribute to costs.
“I would assume Trump would only want the best hair piece, made from quality material billed back to the beautiful taxpayers,” she said. “A custom hand-woven lace-front piece made with real human hair would cost about $2,000. He probably had someone who maintains keeping the specimen along with any custom pieces in his wardrobe. So, for the sake of the article, let’s say it’s cleaned once a month and repaired as needed ― that’s around $750 per month. So $9,000 for wig-keeping. Plus, let’s assume he has five pieces in rotation at $2,000 each. Would you look at that? $10,000.”
According to Watts’ guesses, $52,000 for styling, $9,000 for maintenance on hair pieces and $10,000 for “a couple of good custom pieces” total out to $71,000.
“As you can see, it’s pretty easy to come up with that total if he’s using freelance personnel for this type of service,” she said. “Actually, if this is what he’s paying, he’s probably getting a decent deal!”
We may never know for sure how Trump landed on a $70,000 hair write-off (in addition to reportedly written-off payments of close to $95,000 for “a favorite hair and makeup artist of Ivanka Trump”). These professional opinions are just that ― opinions. But the cost sure puts our ― and, oh, I don’t know, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s hair budgets ― to shame.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.