Bolton’s Hair: No Brush With Greatness

Washington Post style critic Robin Givhan thinks John Bolton’s biggest problem is neither his controversial positions on matters of public policy nor his temperament but his sloppy appearance.

Bolton’s Hair: No Brush With Greatness

John Bolton, President Bush’s nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, desperately needs a haircut. It does not have to be a $600 Sally Hershberger cut. Bolton simply needs the basics. Tidy the curling, unruly locks at the nape of his neck, tame the volume at the crown, reel in the wings flapping above his ears, and broker a compromise between his sand-colored mop and his snow-colored mustache. He needs to do this, not because he should be minding the recommendations of men’s fashion magazines or grooming experts but because when he settled in before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week to answer questions about his record, his philosophy and his intentions at the U.N., he looked as though he did not even have enough respect for the proceedings to bother combing his hair — or, for that matter, straightening his tie, or wearing a shirt that did not put his neck in a chokehold. Bolton was one wrinkled suit away from being an insolent mess.


The fulsome silhouette of the mustache makes for a particularly dreary distraction and seems to pull his whole face downward. It makes Bolton, who is only 56, look hoary and dour. For a man who has shown little evidence of a capacity to charm — an ability that can come in handy for an ambassador — the mustache makes him appear unwelcoming. For all of the testimony about his spiteful dealings with both colleagues and underlings, and his denials of such behavior, he managed to look mean.

Bolton sat before the committee with his tie askew. Not slightly crooked or just a hint off-center but looking like it had been knotted in the dark. The tie itself was an uninspired dark red with bright yellow stripes. It was looped tightly under the button-down collar of his pale-blue shirt — a shirt that encircled his neck in a menacing way.

A Hollywood costumer could not have ordered a more perfectly stern Washington insider. Bolton embraces with a flourish all of the cliches that afflict so many men in Washington. During this testimony, his hand was constantly reaching up to adjust his no-frills glasses. His attire was not merely bland but careless. His hair was so poorly cut, it bordered on rude. Bolton might well argue that appearance has nothing to do with capabilities. But it certainly can be a measure of one’s respect for the job.

How dare he?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Scott Dillard says:

    How wonderful that he doesn’t care!

  2. McGehee says:

    But it certainly can be a measure of one’s respect for the job.

    Dang. I was hoping it was a measure of his respect for his Senate inquisitors.