A recurring joke of the COVID-19 pandemic has been that time is meaningless. For many people now working from home, devoid of regular events or shake-ups, our days have started to blend together into a continuous cycle of working, baking bread, having anxiety or some combination of all three.
For me personally, March felt like the longest month ever to happen, while April barely felt like it happened at all. And May? I’m genuinely shook just thinking that it’s almost half over.
But as our conceptions of work-screen time and fun-screen time, and lying in bed to sleep and lying in bed to contemplate existence start to blur together, Canadians have at least one way to mark each passing day.
Our prime minister’s hair.
Almost every day, people across the country tune in to watch Justin Trudeau give his daily update from outside his home, Rideau Cottage. The background is almost always the same. The podium is always the same. But Trudeau’s locks have been slowly changing before our eyes since the first update on March 13.
Like many of us in this currently barber-less world, Trudeau has had to let his hair grow. And grow it has, from the manicured trim he sported when all this began to the fly-away ’flo that rivals 2011 “pirate Trudeau” in length and his resemblance to a cartoon prince.
It’s evolved slowly, with every passing week marked by a bit more length, a stray fly-away or a brush of the hand.
And people have taken notice.
Someone even set a clip of Trudeau brushing back his hair to the 80s hit “Hungry Eyes” and it’s already got almost 200,000 YouTube views.
But he’s not the only public official whose hair has attracted attention.
B.C. chief medical officer Dr. Bonnie Henry infamously tried to do her own hair in early April. People noticed, and Henry had to explain that she wasn’t seeing some secret hair salon and going against her own orders. Rather, she had tried to do it herself and even apologized to her usual hairdresser for the home attempt.
“They say that the number one thing not to do in a pandemic is your own hair, and I will say believe them,” Henry said. “My apologies to Lindsey, my hairdresser, but I did do some of my own tinkering with my hair in the last couple of days. So, yes, I did not go to the hairdressers.”
“They say that the number one thing not to do in a pandemic is your own hair, and I will say believe them.”
With hair salons and barbers closed across Canada since mid-March, the PM would likely be scrutinized if he suddenly appeared with a professional fresh fade while the rest of us dealt with increasingly shaggy heads or decided to buzz it all off in our home bathrooms.
He’s just like us! No haircuts, no social gatherings and no leaving home!
Of course, if Trudeau really wanted to demonstrate solidarity with the lockdown experience, he could’ve done what many short-haired folks — including myself — did in the absence of professional hairdressers, and do the big buzz.
Regardless, Trudeau’s likely conscious of the commentary his choice to grow it out has inspired.
WATCH: Internet reacts to Justin Trudeau’s beard. Story continues below.
More than any other Canadian political figure of the past decade, hair is a big part of the Liberal Leader’s brand as he ascended through politics into the prime minister’s office. And as a result of the pandemic, we’ve got a slow and steady unexpected return to the Trudeau ’flo of the early 2010s that caused such an uproar.
The PM’s mop was the subject of now-infamous attack ads from the Conservative Party during the 2015 federal elections, that criticized his experience with the caveat “great hair, though.”
And before that was the great goatee of 2011. Looking like an extra out of a Kenneth Branaugh Shakespeare adaptation, Trudeau rocked a goatee and long, flowing locks. He was mocked. He was questioned. He was compared to extras from Pirates of the Caribbean movies and the image on a Captain Morgan bottle.
Trudeau’s hair has been praised, lusted after, criticized, commented on, and has had countless articles just like this written about it (hey, at least I’m self aware). If the man released his conditioner brand, people would probably flock to Shopers Drug Mart to stock up themselves — they already stocked up on his socks.
And this fixation with the PM’s physical presence, and particularly his head scruff, has continued into 2020. When the prime minister first debuted his winter holiday beard in early January, the internet lost its mind. The salt-and-pepper stubble became the subject of much scrutiny, from critics claiming it was Trudeau trying to appear more serious, to fans fawning over his “silver fox” look.
But Trudeau’s choice to keep the beard throughout this crisis could have something to do with that serious tone it inspires.
“Psychologically, [a beard] can be a sort of declaration of fortitude and heartiness,” Christopher Oldstone-Moore, who studies gender and hair at Wright State University told Wired Magazine. “It’s a way of saying, ‘I’m tough. I can withstand adversity.’”
Oldstone-Moore coined the term “quest beard,” which can refer to a beard grown out to mark the passage of time. Think of hockey players growing out playoff beards, or wartime reporters out in the field for extended periods of time.
So far, Trudeau’s kept the beard trim and neat throughout the crisis, though a few days have been scruffier than others. But we can see Trudeau’s growing locks as a bit of a “quest hairdo” for the pandemic. Every day it gets a bit longer, and every day more time passes.
As one Twitter user noted, it’s the playoff beard of the pandemic.
Barbers and salons in Ontario aren’t set to reopen for at least two to four weeks. At the rate we’re going, we’re en route to a prime ministerial man-bun.