Obama Going Gray!

The Old Gray Lady has another of the epic scoops that made them the Newspaper of Record. Ace correspondent Helene Cooper breaks the news in a piece of journalism titled “For Young President, Flecks of Gray.”

Well, that didn’t take long. Just 44 days into the job, and President Obama is going gray.

It happens to all of them, of course — Bill Clinton still had about half a head of brown hair when he took office but was a silver fox two years later, and George W. Bush went from salt and pepper to just salt in what seemed like a blink of an eye.

But so soon? “I started noticing it toward the end of the campaign and leading up to inauguration,” says Deborah Willis, who, as co-author of “Obama: The Historic Campaign in Photographs,” pored through 5,000 photographs of the first head over the last year.

Mr. Obama’s graying is still of the flecked variety, and appears to wax and wane depending on when he gets his hair cut, which he does about every two weeks. His barber, who goes by only one name, Zariff, takes umbrage with bloggers who alternately claim Mr. Obama, 47, is dyeing his hair gray (to appear more distinguished) or dyeing it black (to appear younger). “I can tell you that his hair is 100 percent natural,” Zariff said. “He wouldn’t get it colored.”

And for all of his 16 years giving Mr. Obama his “quo vadis” haircut — black parlance from the 1960s for close-cut locks — Zariff said he is not about to start ribbing Mr. Obama. “We do not tease about the gray at all,” he said.

Now, I have no doubt that running for president, let alone serving as president, is ridiculously stressful.  Anecdotally at least, the job does seem to “age” its occupants.

But, let me meet anecdote with anecdote which — there is some controversy about this — may or may not constitute data.   At 43, I’m younger than Obama.  While I work long hours under the pressure of Internet Time deadlines, I have never run for president nor had to make decisions on multi-trillion dollar budgets.  And yet, alas, my hair has flecks of gray.  Some (my wife, for example) would say “flecks” understates the situation.

So far as I’m aware, there is no Latin name for my haircut.  When I was a small boy, my dad would take me to the barber and order up “A regular man’s haircut.”  Aside from a few instances, such as Airborne school, where I wore it much shorter, I’ve had some variant of it since 1984.    Shockingly, my hair appears less gray when it’s freshly trimmed (usually every other Thursday).

What I’m getting at is this:  Obama probably had a bit gray hair when he started running for president.  He’s older now and probably has a bit more.  While young for a president, he is, after all,  well into middle age.  Further, as is typical of those who sport the quo vadis, his hair is dark, so the gray stands out more.   Depending on how the light — including camera flashes and television kliegs — it’ll sometimes appear more gray than at other times.   None of this should be taken as an indication that he’s cracking under the pressure.

via memeorandum

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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. Fausta says:

    My hair started turning gray when I was 25, so I turned to Miss Clairol (Ms Clairol?).

    Maybe Obama has turned away from Just For Men once the election was over?

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    Only his hairdresser knows for sure.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    And as I recall Ronald Reagan didn’t dye his hair. He was just prematurely orange.

  4. sam says:

    Speaking of hair, and feeling your age. I caught a Led Zeppelin piece on VH1 a while back and was shocked to see that Jimmy Page’s hair is snow white. Jesus! Change I certainly didn’t want to believe in.

  5. Michael says:

    And yet, alas, my hair has flecks of gray. Some (my wife, for example) would say “flecks” understates the situation.

    In less than a year your child will be walking, in which case “flecks” won’t even come close anymore.

  6. Gary B says:

    Who cares? I am sick sick sick of hearing about Obumma (that’s right I said OBUMMA) in the media! He is the most dangerous man that ever hit the White House!

  7. Barry says:

    In the two pictures they show, his hair color is radically different, but so is his skin tone. Methinks that lighting is the culprit.

  8. lunacy says:

    I think his hair dresser is adding the gray to make him seem wise and experienced.

    Is it helping?

  9. Grewgills says:

    In the two pictures they show, his hair color is radically different, but so is his skin tone.

    I notice that too. His skin is also turning gray.

  10. Andrewkfromaz says:

    As a jester on my twitter feed pointed out, he does live with his mother-in-law…