Hillary Clinton’s New Haircut: What’s the Buzz?

Hillary Clinton showed off a glamorous new coif on Monday in Little Rock at a library dedicated to her name and later that evening for the opening of the exhibit "Oscar de la Renta: American Icon" at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center, and the fashion media is loving it.

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Vanity Fair called the Clinton's look, "cheerful and vivacious" and referred to her side-swept bangs as being "kicky." The blog World of Hillary concurred that the shorter, wavy layers were super flattering. So flattering perhaps that Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue and the high priestess of American fashion (who attended the event alongside the former first lady), wants to feature on the magazine's cover, reports Women's Wear Daily.

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From regular folks on Twitter, there was debate over the fascination with Clinton's follicles. "I feel weird and vain by saying I'm excited Hillary Clinton has decided to style her hair. But I am," read one pro-coiffure commentary tweet. A common anti-coiffure commentary stance was that the focus should be on her deeds, not her 'do. "Dear sexist horserace media. DO NOT report on Hillary's hairstyle at all. DO NOT Speculate what it means for 2016," complained another.

The fact is that Clinton, like most women in the public eye, is keenly aware that her looks are under intense scrutiny. She even refers ironically to herself in her Twitter bio as a "hair icon, pantsuit aficionado." Although, perhaps because she's underplayed her looks during the last few years, wearing glasses, going without makeup and stating, "I feel so relieved to be at the stage I'm at in my life right now. … You know at some point it's just not something that deserves a lot of time and attention," her new hair has in fact received much less attention than Michelle Obama's locks. Six months after getting bangs, the First Lady's hairstyle is still a source of debate and her bangs have their own Twitter and Facebook accounts. Even President Obama joked, just before his second inauguration, that his wife's bangs were the "most significant event of the weekend," and three months later, donned a fake fringe at the White House Correspondent's Association dinner.

As for Hillary's hair, it may seem sexist to comment on a female politician's coif, but since the former secretary of state has a down-to-earth sense of humor when it comes to her own style-an occasionally, lack thereof-she's probably OK with and maybe even enjoys the attention paid to her freshly cropped hairdo complete with bouncy curls and cornsilk-tinted highlights. Besides, in this era of image-driven media, even male politicians can't escape the scrutiny of the hair police. Remember the Great Haircut Scandal of 1993 when Bill Clinton sat on the tarmac in Air Force One delaying commercial flights while he got a trim, or the $400 cut that nearly derailed John Edwards's political run (and which now seems rather quaint in the light of subsequent, shall we say, lapses in judgment)? And male politician's looks count too: even back as far as 1960, its speculated that Richard Nixon lost the televised presidential debates to a youthful, tanned John F. Kennedy because he looked sweaty and pale under the glaring studio lights.

At this point, Clinton has proven her stature as a politician. What the buzz really comes down to is pundits and political watchers trying to read her strands like tea leaves as we look ahead toward the next presidential race.