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Friday, 22 June, 2001, 09:06 GMT 10:06 UK
Baldness: Is it a bar to a top job?

Iain Duncan Smith has high hopes to lead the Conservative Party, but he faces one challenge that his rivals do not.

With modern politics so dominated by image, many believe that a full head of hair is always going to triumph over baldness.

Duncan Smith could be joining the likes of William Hague and Neil Kinnock in the arena of follicly-challenged challengers.

One newspaper has even suggested that a bald man can never again lead the Conservative party.

But what do you think? Is baldness really a bar to the top job?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

The leader of a nation not only has to be a good party leader, strong minded, charismatic etc. but also has to seem prime ministerial. Unfortunately a bald head is a major disadvantage. As trivial as it may seem, this is a major lesson the Tories need to learn if they are to gain re-election. The likes of Hague, Iain Smith can never lead a party into government
M Patel, UK

Let's look at this realistically. One has to, if one wishes to be leader of any nation, at least appear youthful.
Peter Bolton, UK in US

People have become so obsessed with image

Phillip Porteous, Cumbria
Well it certainly shouldn't be a bar to a top job, but the sad truth is that it is. People have become so obsessed with image.
Phillip Porteous, Cumbria

A full head of hair may look the part for indoor photo sessions, but the more follicly-challenged among us don't look as hideously windblown as Tony Blair did on the few occasions he actually went into the real world to meet real people.
Willy Davidson, UK

I can't believe this is even up for discussion. Put the right person in the job and let them get on with it.
Grant Gushlow, UK

Don't kid yourselves, we are still animals

Christian, UK
A PM has to be a strong leader. That strength is associated with mind and body. It's easier to see strength in someone who has a full head of hair and a strong build, rather than someone overweight and bald. Don't kid yourselves, we are still animals, and as such need to see strength in our group leader, as well as hear it, or see its actions. It's not being shallow, unless you think evolution is shallow.
Christian, UK

I'm as bald as a coot. I'm also quite ugly, as a result of many years playing rugby. I run a successful IT company, and I've never encountered any problems with anyone as a result of being "trichologically challenged".
John, UK

Parliament is not a stage for a fashion parade. Baldness is not a deformity but trying to cover it is......
Ramesh C, India

If baldness isn't a bar to top jobs, then it certainly should be. And I speak as a person with a full set of hair.
Phil J, UK

If you form an opinion about which candidate you will vote for by how much hair they have you must be dense. Tony Blair won the election because he is honest and his policies aren't steeped in greed. Stop making excuses for the Conservatives.
Lori, USA

God only made a few perfect heads. The rest he covered with hair.
John Stewart, UK

I reckon it's better to judge what's in the head rather than what grows on top of it

Louis Charles, France
Since I'm a hairdresser, I have always been interested in famous leaders and their hair (or lack of it). I think if we look throughout history we see leaders like Reagan, Stalin, and Yeltsin all had thick, wonderful hair. However, we also see leaders like Lenin, Churchill, Gorbachev, and Kohl who were all baldies. I reckon it's better to judge what's in the head rather than what grows on top of it.
Louis Charles, France

As a baldie I can say that I prefer being bald to having hair. I don't have to spend the ridiculous amounts it costs to have my hair cut. Also, it has never stopped me getting a good job. But if the real reasons that Hague wasn't voted in was because of his hair then it shows how shallow our society is becoming.
Sam Wren, England

Vanity is a distraction, a weakness. If we were all so vain as to choose our leaders, our decision-makers based on how the public thinks they ought to appear, then we shall forever be sentenced to living in a vain, weak, distracted society lead by vain, weak distracted leaders.
Kevin, Canada, Canada

Tony Blair is absolute proof that presentation is at least as important as substance

Tom, USA
I don't think a bald head in itself is a bar to high office, but it's certainly a significant obstacle. Hague and Kinnock combined baldness with accents which most electors found off-putting and, on top of that, generally poor presentation of themselves (hair or no hair), though neither approached Michael Foot in the latter respect. Iain Duncan-Smith has got a bald head, but without the harsh accent or generally odd appearance of a Hague or a Kinnock. He's someone who actually does look and sound as if he could be PM, which, frankly, could never be said of either Hague or Kinnock. It is a pity, but, in the age of television, Tony Blair is absolute proof that presentation is at least as important as substance.
Tom, USA

What about Ming The Merciless? He's bald and controls half the Galaxy?
Michael Gahan, Ireland

Unfortunately it is true. Look at any meeting of senior managers of an organisation. Look at all those silver tops.
Andrew J. Chisholm, UK

Prime minister or president, he has to look good on television

Ray W, Australia
Yes appearance does matter. It has mattered for years with women and now in this superficial world it matters with men. The good-looking man with a full head of well-groomed hair will always be at an advantage. He will always do better, be it more sales, or more votes. Everything these days has to conform to some strange idea of a perfect specimen. Prime minister or president, he has to look good on television.
Ray W, Australia

Urho Kekkonen was the President of Finland from 1956 to 1981, dominating Finnish politics for a good part of the 20th century. A powerful character, Kekkonen was re-elected to the office four times. He was a former top athlete and famously fond of beautiful women. And yes, he was completely bald from his mid-40s.
Jouko Koppinen, Finland

No, but if you're the wrong person for the job it makes it worse.
J Kerr, UK

You don't listen to what the politician is saying because you are too mesmerised by what he or she looks like

Patrick C, UK
William Hague is acknowledged to be a gifted orator with many outstanding qualities. However he is not television friendly. Television is an terrifyingly shallow medium. You don't listen to what the politician is saying because you are too mesmerised by what he or she looks like. Television has had the same corrupting effect on the music business where as long as you look good you can mime your way through any old rubbish with ample help from technology, producers etc.
Patrick C, UK

Hair has never been an issue - and I hope we never sink to this as a marker for suitability as a leader. It is just the unfortunate fact that William H seems to be some long lost relative of ET.
Eileen Waller, UK

Of course it makes a difference. Think of the last few presidents of the United States, all have had good heads of hair. It is a matter of presentation.
Robert Creasey, England

Jesse Ventura (Governor of Minnisota) proves that bald ain't the issue - it's leadership and honesty about your purpose and the ability to communicate those ideas that win elections.
Peter, Texas, USA

If you are short, bald and unattractive, you are at a distinct disadvantage

Stephen, US
It's a proven fact, the one who is taller, who has "better" hair, or is more attractive not only is more likely to win an election, they also tend to get promoted more rapidly, and make more money. If you are short, bald and unattractive, no matter how solid your campaign platform is, or how qualified a candidate you may be, you are at a distinct disadvantage.
Stephen, US

It is not what is on top of the head that matters, but what is in it.
E. Gaudet, Canada

Looks play a major role in our society, especially in the west where Hollwood and fashion magazines have brainwashed our next generation. Politics is becoming a fashion show, with thick hair finishing in first place. Young voters are voting for youth.
Gerard, Toronto, Canada

As a founding member of the BLF (Balding Liberation Front), we support the popular uprising of the follically challenged throughout the globe

Matthew D., US
As a founding member of the BLF (Balding Liberation Front), we support the popular uprising of the follically challenged throughout the globe. We should never be confused with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Bald People (PFLBP), because we categorically reject their recent betrayal of our cause by endorsing hair transplants. As such, we are the true spokesmen for those shining globes among us!
Matthew D., US

What about Churchill? He wasn't exactly over-endowed in the hair department in later years, and look at how he galvanised popular opinion during the war. In any case, judging by the amount of hair Tony Blair has lost in the past four years, it won't be long before his 'appeal' will be looking decidedly thin.
Stephen D, UK

Mr. Hague may have been bald, but he may have disproved the aphorism that 'grass does not grow on a busy street'. I think the fact he was not a particularly good leader may have had something to do with it. Perhaps Ken Clarke is not such a bad option. He is slightly bald or perhaps slightly hairy?
Dr David Gable, USA/UK

Which to choose - the hairless or the heirless?
Andy Cook, France

We should limit the job of politicians to bald people and do away forever with hair-brained government schemes.
Harry Knapp, Germany

I would hope that as a nation we are not so shortsighted as to put a man's hairline in front of his leadership ability

Jon, England
I would hope that as a nation we are not so shortsighted as to put a man's hairline in front of his leadership ability. However, I do see how a party made up of old (and potentially balding) men with old school ideas could seem less attractive to the voter than a younger, more dynamic party.
Jon, England

A 1990 study in the US looked at the proportion of baldies in elected office. Of 522 officeholders only 31 were fully bald. I quote from Gersh Kuntzman's recent book 'Hair': 'instead of 31 fully bald men in office, there should have been 118 if our elected officials resembled society'. Looks pretty conclusive to me; psychological studies regularly show that bald men are judged to be less trustworthy, less masculine and less attractive than those with hair. Not that Portillo's hair makes him particularly trustworthy in my opinion...
Magnus, UK

Helmut Kohl and Francois Mitterand were baldies who seemed to do OK, as did Trudeau in Canada. Hague's failure had little to do with his baldness and everything to do with being leader of an unelectable, out of touch political party!
Mark B, UK

If image is the only thing that counts God help us. My vote had nothing to do with hair or lack of it.

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