Ana Veciana-Suarez

Ana Veciana-Suarez: Reporting on politicians’ fashion choices shouldn’t apply just to women

Hillary Scrunchies LLC

After years of keeping my hair in a chin-length bob, I grew it long for one reason — I can tie it back when I’m too rushed to tame it or when Miami’s humidity pushes the frizz factor past intolerable. If I weren’t so vain, if I cared less about how I look and what others say, I’d do the smart thing and shave it all off, every single, stubborn tress.

Of course that’s an option for the brave and the bold and I’m neither. I am, however, a fan of scrunchies, those fabric-covered hair ties that exploded onto the fashion scene back in the ‘80s. If you’re a woman with long-enough hair, you likely have worn one. And if a totally unscientific poll is any indication, most men are also familiar with the scrunchie, though the name of this fashion item may elude them.

So it was with some amusement that I read about a line of hair accessories created by Morgan Gerard and Meredith Fineman. The entrepreneurs are selling a Hillary scrunchie online for $10.99 and a Hillary bandana for $9.99. On the website, the friends describe themselves as "fangirls" with no affiliation to Clinton or her campaign. But they explain why they bothered to elevate this modest hair accessory to political statement:

"Not all of us have time to do our hair when traveling internationally, or dealing with national security. Not all of us have time to do our hair while we are busy working, cooking, studying, being a mom, cleaning, staying fit — and all of those other tasks that 2015 demands from women… So instead of making fun of Hillz, let's embrace her favorite hair accessory. It's hard enough to just BE A WOMAN without other women tearing you down."

It’s not just women ripping Clinton, though. Men have been judgmental, too, as have media outlets which continue to report on female politicians’ purses and heels as if these were crucial to public policy. You might recall that Clinton was crucified for her use of scrunchies back when she was First Lady and then Secretary of State. Many thought her scrunchies were….well, meh. At one point even her handlers admitted that they were hoping to ban them. This, of course, was duly chronicled as a news item.

Really.

Clinton, not one to ignore an opportunity, pounced on our misplaced fascination with her hair fashion. At one point she joked about titling her memoir, "The Scrunchie Chronicles: 112 Countries and It’s Still All About the Hair." And her Twitter bio includes "hair icon" and "pantsuit aficionado" among such descriptions as "SecState," "Senator" and "2016 presidential candidate."

These days Clinton seems to have forgotten her signature fashion statement on the campaign trail. She now sports a shorter ’do as part of a more glamorous persona. The fact that this makeover has even made national news is a sad commentary on how conflicted we are about women in the public sphere. While you may never read about Jeb Bush’s suit or the cut of Bernie Sanders’ shirt, we are still told about Carly Fiorina’s style choices. It’s as if we don’t know how else to write about influential women.

Maybe equality in coverage will come not by abstaining from describing women’s sartorial choices but by reporting on the political power dressing of all, regardless of gender. A candidate’s choice of designer might tell us more about his true political leanings than his well-rehearsed stump speeches.

So if we have a Hillary scrunchie, can the market for a Trump toupee be far behind?

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