Trump & Johnson: What a Contrast, Image-wise!

Is there an age for everything? Yes and No. Instant look at British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s images give the impression as if he isn’t too bothered about his hair appearing to be ruffled and almost rushing to his eyes. What if he had glasses on? But that’s another issue. Look carefully, it is a much-practiced combing/setting hair exercise, to prevent his receding hair-line from being visible to people. Not that the quantity of hair on his head is a serious issue for his supporters and/or critics but it certainly appears to bear a lot of importance for him. In contrast, United States’ President Donald Trump’s hair-style seems so perfectly set, with hardly a hair out of place. Substantial attention has been paid to his hair-style also hiding his receding hair-line. Well, simply out of respect, this scribe has chosen not to use word- balding. Yes, when we talk of receding hair-line, it implies balding.

But then what is wrong with balding and why is new importance being given by most politicians across the world to setting their hair to hide receding hair-lines? They don’t want to look even partly bald before others. Of course, how can their right to be so hair-conscious questioned? They have their right to do what they want to with their hair. But one certainly ponder over this. It could be age-factor and to a degree, that of looking better. There is nothing wrong with this. Who doesn’t want to look younger and better than his/her years suggest?

However, with due respect to two political celebrities, there is yet another aspect about the impression conveyed by “image” of both. Of course, it is not the same. Jokes apart, the question of it not being same cannot and does not exist. Their styles, gaits, facial expressions, etc. of both convey distinctly different impressions. While Johnson almost continually carries a “jovial” expression, at least this is suggested by his media-images, that of Trump ever being jovial cannot be imagined. It is not that Trump never has a smile on his face. But even his ear-to-ear smiles seem suggestive of his doing a favor to those around him. They don’t seem as natural as were those of his predecessors, including Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. You’ve got it. There is a certain arrogance in air carried by Trump’s gait, with his head being almost in the skies. We know that it is not there but he seems to convey the impression that it is there.

In contrast, Johnson seems more focused on the ground ahead of him. Not that he is worried about slipping (politically, diplomatically and/or physically) the next moment or who knows he may be, but at least he is trying not to appear arrogant. This is interesting. More so because of the well-known phrase – British upper lip. Yes, all British don’t have it. But those in power and from the royal class have almost always had it. Johnson does not seem to have this trait. Trump does display the sensibility of a stiff upper lip, which cannot be linked with American nationality. Perhaps, it has more to do with his political ego.

With this being the era of communication boom, there is no denying that politicians and most celebrities need to give extra importance to their image. They have no choice as they are almost perpetually in the public eye. And this draws attention to another aspect of image-promotion “attitude” of both Trump and Johnson. Whether Trump has a giant-sized ego or not, there is no denying he is extra-conscious of being head of a superpower. And he probably has no regrets about this reflecting on his face, in his posture, overall in his personality and attitude. What can be said about Johnson projecting, at least trying to, a different image. He is apparently not oblivious of criticism showered on him in various British circles, including media. He is trying to take all this in his stride. He has no choice but let it appear so, even if it is through his hair appearing to be fairly ruffled. Though close observation suggests that this is not really the reason.

Seriously speaking, hair-style of males plays a greater part than of females in projecting their personality even though the former hardly have any compared to latter. In essence, politico-diplomatic reasons may be viewed as playing a major part in image-promotion drive of Trump and Johnson, including their hair-styles, facial expressions and whatsoever you may view as worth taking note of. Clean-shaved Trump and Johnson have limited choice about their dress-styles. It is their democratic right to pay the importance they desire to their respective hair-styles, facial expressions and their images. It may or may not be taken as a hair-splitting issue by research scholars!

Nilofar Suhrawardy is a senior journalist and writer with specialization in communication studies and nuclear diplomacy. Her latest book is Modi’s Victory, A Lesson for the Congress…? (2019). Others include:– Arab Spring, Not Just a Mirage! (2019), Image and Substance, Modi’s First Year in Office (2015) and Ayodhya Without the Communal Stamp, In the Name of Indian Secularism (2006).