Fair or not, the hairstyles of First Ladies throughout the years have garnered almost as much attention as their civic accomplishments. Just as there are FLOTUS Fashion Trends, which can catapult chosen designers to stardom, a First Lady’s hairstyle can start a nationwide craze.
You might assume that Jackie Kennedy, with her signature bouffant, had the most profound influence on global hairstyles (booklets were printed with specific instructions on how to achieve the “Jackie Look”). Actually, an earlier First Lady had an even greater impact! Frances Cleveland, the 21-year-old bride of 54-year-old Grover Cleveland, was our first “celebrity” FLOTUS. Frances shaved the back of her neck clean and wore her long hair piled and pinned high on her head. College girls went gaga for this look and overwhelmed hairdressers with requests for the “a la Frankie” haircut. (On the other hand, no one seemed in a hurry to replicate Mary Todd Lincoln’s proclivity for wearing wreathes of roses woven into her massive braids.)
Little girls growing up in the sixties were often subjected to absurdly short bangs that mirrored those of First Lady Mamie Eisenhower. Mothers would tuck their daughters into bed after scotch-taping hair to their foreheads…hoping that by morning, bangs would be welded into submission!
First Lady Barbara Bush, with her cloud of snow-white hair, believed in “going natural” – no blow dryers, no dyes. It was a look that suited her beautifully and empowered other women of a “certain age” to embrace their greying hair with dignity. Her daughter-in-law, First Lady Laura Bush, opted for a short, simple, easy-to-maintain style with a soft side bang, a look that became popular among busy professional women.
Michelle Obama seems to have had the most fun with her hair, changing her look frequently over the course of her eight years in office with sleek bobs, softly sassy curls, sophisticated up-dos and more. And for those fascinated by White House trendsetters, this may be the first time in memory when the President’s hair will trump that of the First Lady. Stay tuned!