Paris (AFP) - Short on the sides and thinning on top, French President Francois Hollande's hair is kept perfectly groomed at a cost of almost 10,000 euros a month, the Canard Enchaine weekly reported Wednesday.
The unpopular leader's hair has never been the topic of scrutiny, unlike other high-profile male politicians such as US presidential candidate Donald Trump or former London mayor Boris Johnson.
However the publication of the contract of his hairdresser, identified only as Olivier B., by the investigative newspaper had the French public bristling over such extravagant spending by a Socialist president.
"I can understand the questions, I can understand that there are judgements," said government spokesman Stephane Le Foll, who confirmed the hairdresser's steep salary of 9,895 euros ($10,900) a month.
"Everyone has their hair done, don't they?" added Le Foll, his trademark thick grey mane flopping over his forehead.
- 'Coiffeurgate' -
A lawmaker with the far-right National Front (FN) referred to Hollande as "his majesty" on Twitter, while other users superimposed afros, mullets and other hairstyles on pictures of the president, to "help his hairdresser earn his salary".
The hashtag #Coiffeurgate was trending on Twitter in France.
Some Twitter users also suggested other balding candidates for the presidency in 2017, such as Alain Juppe of the opposition Republicans, could save taxpayers money.
An image of Hollande with a beanie photoshopped onto his head was captioned "budget cuts".
Hollande himself earns an annual wage of 179,000 euros a year or 14,900 euros a month.
The Canard Enchaine reported that in addition to his salary, the hairdresser was entitled to a "housing allowance" and other "family benefits".
He has been employed since 2012 and travels with the president on most of his foreign trips.
The hairdresser's contract states that he must "maintain absolute secrecy about his work and any information he may have gathered both during and after his contract".
Hollande's former partner Valerie Trierweiler denied that the hairdresser had been brought in at her request, as two journalists claimed in a book published in April.
"Let's be fair: F. Hollande was not aware of the hairdresser's salary," she said.
"I can attest to his anger when he learned it later," she added.
Trierweiler, a journalist, published a bestselling tell-all memoir of her relationship and break-up with Hollande, portraying the French leader as a cold-hearted egotist and champagne socialist, who was contemptuous of the "toothless" poor.
Hollande, who was elected in 2012, has always portrayed himself as "Mr Normal", in stark contrast to his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy whose flashy lifestyle saw him dubbed "President Bling Bling".
A series of political and personal scandals along with a moribund economy and stubborn unemployment levels have driven Hollande's popularity rating to the lowest levels ever seen in modern French history.
Critics on the left of his party accuse him of betraying Socialist ideals and cosying up to business with a series of economic and labour reforms, despite stating during campaigning that the world of finance was his "enemy".
Hollande has said he will decide by the end of the year whether to stand for re-election next year. He has said his decision will depend on his success in cutting unemployment.