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Austerity is so last season – why else would celebrities be cutting their hair?

I read somewhere that bobs are back. What does this MEAN?

Desperate newspaper features writer, UK

This is a question that urgently needs addressing, so address it we shall. You see, it turns out that a few attractive young women in the public eye have, at some point in the past year, cut their hair short, so obviously features need to be written about this because it allows us to use photos of said women.

The Sunday Times was first off the starting blocks with an article about how the rise of short hair proves that the economy is back on track. Of course! Can’t argue with logic, right? The reason behind this, the journalists patiently explained to the slower among us, is because short hair is more expensive to maintain, requiring more frequent cuts – ergo, austerity is soooo last season. As is the way with these features, a hairdresser was duly found who was happy to claim in a national newspaper that, yes, tons of women are now spending hundreds of pounds a week with him maintaining their Robin Wright-like hair, and so should all Sunday Times readers. Total proof there! Like I said, you can’t argue with logic.

As it happened, earlier that week I’d read another article, one that had nothing to do with short hair. It was an article about what it’s like to be a writer for Mail Online and it was published on the US website gawker.com. In this piece, the author described an organisation where, as he puts it, “the editorial model depends on little more than dishonesty, theft of copyrighted material, and sensationalism so absurd that it crosses into fabrication”. This will not surprise anyone who’s ever glanced at Mail Online but, still, quite something to come from a former insider, no?

A few hours after reading the gripping story about the correlation between bob haircuts and economics in the Sunday Times, I noticed that a new story (which is very different from a “news story”) had popped up on Mail Online. What’s this, I asked myself, pushing my spectacles up on my nose? “Rise in shorter hairstyles! It’s a sign of the economic recovery,” read the headline. What astonishing synchronicity. Even more incredibly, the Mail cited many of the same celebrities as the Sunday Times did: Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, Rosamund Pike, Sienna Miller, Kristen Stewart, etc and so forth. The only difference was, the Mail used more photos of the women. To be fair, there is a grudging acknowledgement of the Sunday Times in the story, perhaps because even the Mail is cognisant of the power of Murdoch’s lawyers. But I think the thing to take away from this is not the sheer desperation of certain publications, which merely rehash already dubious stories from other papers, but that, clearly, this rise in bob haircuts is a very, very important story.

I am, I must admit, intrigued by the idea that celebrities have waited until they felt we are at the end of the Age of Austerity to get their haircut. This does seem a tad improbable, not just because celebrities are generally untouched by economic concerns, but because they usually get things such as hair maintenance, makeup and fashion for free and so are not reliable bellwethers about such matters. In fact, Cheryl Tweedy, I mean Cole, I mean Fernandez-Versini, is what is grandly referred to as “an ambassador for L’Oréal” (it’s just like being the ambassador to Iraq, but with more free shampoo), so it’s hard not to suspect that her haircut has more to do with the fact she has to keep her hair jazzy as part of the L’Oréal deal, and therefore keep it in the news. (I imagine that is exactly what a L’Oréal contract stipulates when you sign on to be an ambassador: “must keep hair jazzy”.)

As loath as I am to puncture the media’s fondness for justifying the use of photos of attractive young women with the claim that they’re making a social commentary (see also: short skirts mean economic strength, skinny models are evil, etc), the fact that a few celebrities have cut their hair does not strike me as possessing any more meaning than the story that Eddie Redmayne recently went to the dry cleaners (“Eddie dry cleans his clothes! Austerity is over!”) If this has led to a few non-celebrity women also having their hair cut, this seems more like a comment on the power of celebrity than the weathervane-like qualities of women’s hair in predicting economics.

But snarking is SUCH a bad look, and it turns out that – according to George Osborne, who himself appears to have had a haircut – this country’s financials are really turning around. So Sienna Miller’s bob was right after all! No wonder two newspapers felt the need to run two identical stories on this gripping development.

Post your questions to Hadley Freeman, Ask Hadley, The Guardian, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Email ask.hadley@theguardian.com.

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