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Monday, 15 April, 2002, 09:51 GMT 10:51 UK
Schroeder's hair: Does it matter?
A libel suit filed by the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, will be heard in court on Friday.

At issue is whether the 58 year-old German leader dyes his dark brown hair.

The allegation was made by a German news agency. One of Mr Schroeder's political opponents then claimed that a leader "who touches up his hair also touches up statistics".

Mr Schroeder seems to feel that the allegation is damaging his credibility, something he is not prepared to tolerate in an election year.

But it has left him open to accusations of frivolity at a time when Germans are worrying about much more pressing issues, like the state of the economy.

Is this legal action a frivolous waste of time? Or is Mr Schroeder right in taking the issue so seriously? Does the colour of a politician's hair matter?

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

Your reaction

He's obviously got too much money and too much time on his hands

John D, UK
It's obviously true. Iain Duncan Smith dyes his hair as well, and I bet he doesn't get through as much dye as Gerhard Schroeder. Yes - a waste of time. He's obviously got too much money and too much time on his hands.
John D, UK

My hair went white at the age of 14. I was so embarrassed that I dyed it black and have done so ever since for the last 11 years. Hair dye is great - without it I would have had to walk around looking like a Christmas pudding with icing sugar on my head.
Adam Irvine, Oxford, England

I don't believe that any rational voter cares a hoot about grey hairs or attempts to hide them. What matters are grey cells and the evidence of their existence.
Peter Sykes, UK

To dye or not to dye that is the question. It's standard practice in the Arab world that men dye their hair, sometimes with henna which gives it an orange colour. I also believe that the more politicians dye their hair, the less democratic are the nations they govern.
Ash, Cairo, Egypt

If he feels better about himself by dying his hair then his improved self esteem can only be for the betterment of his country's leadership

Kenneth Jessett, USA
The chancellor is being silly, he should have just laughed it off. If there is any electorate that believes this trait to be more important than the affairs of state it needs a good dose of reality, as does the chancellor for taking it too seriously. In any case, if he feels better about himself by dying his hair then his improved self esteem can only be for the betterment of his country's leadership.
Kenneth Jessett, USA

Is the German chancellor such a serious person? What does he expect? He is a public figure. This is something that should be swallowed with a little bit of humour.
Khadija, Netherlands

Since it is quite obvious that many voters are more concerned with the appearance of politicians rather than their policies, Mr Schroeder is quite right to be worried about both his hair colour and his reputation. He should take immediate legal action in this matter.
Barry P, England

If people are more concerned with what is happening on top of a politician's head rather then inside it, is it any wonder the world is in such a mess?
Steve, UK

I say good luck to him. I dye my hair on a regular basis, as where I live I feel I have to keep up appearances, but it doesn't mean I am underhanded in other areas of my life.
David Atkin, UK

It is juvenile and asinine. The world has so many incompetent political leaders because voters are more influenced by the physical appearance than the substantive content of political candidates.
Nyakairu, USA

If he loses the next election nobody will be interested in his friseur

Mark Hampton, Germany
Who cares what colour his head is? If he loses the next election nobody will be interested in his friseur. He should be thinking about the four million who don't have the money for a tonal treatment.
Mark Hampton, Germany

Chancellor Schroeder should laugh it away as he stands brilliant chances to secure most of the votes of the younger generation. Not only does he look young (with or without dying his hair), but very handsome and smart too. His prized appearance can be considered as opposition's envy. Unfortunately, the matter has been unnecessarily dragged to a court of law.
Mahesh Chandra Somani, Finland

There's really only one way to find out and I can't see him doing that in court!
David Middleton, UK

When I saw this news, I just could not believe that a leading politician in a developed country takes this so seriously. All I can say is that he is showing the world his childishness. When you take the world today, there is a number of issues to be discussed and if you take Germany itself, there are numbers problems to be sorted out.
Morn, Norway

If he has, it wouldn't be the first time a politician has tried to obscure the truth!
Phil, UK

I don't really care whether Chancellor Schroeder uses hair dye or not, as I expect, neither do the great majority of the German people. However, if the press prints lies about you and in turn those are used for some sort of petty-political-point-scoring then why should he not take legal action?
Cameron, Scotland

This is a distinctly grey area in German politics

Steve Speroni, England
I think this is a distinctly grey area in German politics! Who cares?!
Steve Speroni, England

My political views are purely based on the image of the individual and I think Mr Schroeder is well within his right to carry through with these actions. I voted Labour in the last election because Tony Blair is a crisp, sharp and young looking individual. Maybe if he had grey hair and an old groggy suit I would think about submitting my vote elsewhere.
Fraser Howse, Essex, England

It should not be but I am afraid it is. People respond to the televisual in the televisual age. Sure look at Blair - he is definitely doing something with his hair to address his receding hairline. He is either getting corrective surgery or using special shampoo to puff up his hair.
Ian, US, ex Ireland

Schroeder is conveniently fitting our stereo-type of the humourless Hun.
Charles, UK

Who cares?

Keith Millar, UK
Does this reveal underlying insecurities that would suggest that Herr Schroeder is not the most suitable candidate for the role? I think the real question we should all be asking ourselves with regard to this political debate is - who cares?
Keith Millar, UK

It just seems like such a silly, minor thing for everyone to be getting upset and prideful about. Surely everyone involved in this has got better things to do with their time. And yes, doesn't the Chancellor have the EU largest economy to run? Seriously, it shouldn't matter a bit to anyone whether the man dyes his hair or not.
Dilshad, Netherlands

Germans tend to be a smart bunch. Surely they know not to elect a politician based on his or her hair, and Schroeder is not giving them enough credit. If the story is false I can understand him wanting to punish the tabloid for printing lies, but a little more grace is expected from someone in his position.
Jennifer Ethington, USA

Herr Schroeder has probably lost votes by taking this to court instead of laughing about it (and perhaps finding a witty riposte to the allegation). Something like Ronald Reagan's memorable response to Walter Mondale that he wasn't going to let age be an issue in the US election -- he would not focus on his opponent's "youth and inexperience". That killed the age issue for good.
Paul, Germany/UK

I think his credibility will be damaged far more by this action than the accusation of using hair dye! It's plainly obvious that he is using dye, men of 58 do not have completely black hair! Get real Gerhard!
Gerry Anstey, England

I think political groups opposed to Schroeder should pool their resources and fund a commission designed to find the truth

Chris Cormier, Canada
I think political groups opposed to Schroeder should pool their resources and fund a commission designed to find the truth. Possibly a 500 page document detailing their findings. But Schroeder does have the option to bomb some foreign bogeyman to distract the public attention.
Chris Cormier, Canada

At least he has hair to colour
Simon Mallett, UK

I keep a small amount of hair on the edges of my head, but I've "re-distributed" most of it, via the plug-hole in the shower! I really must instigate legal action against my wife, who constantly refers to me as "baldy".
John, England

It comes to something when image is so important that it overshadows serious political debate. Talking of which, was his hair dyed by the famous Herr Kutt?
Ken Beach, Germany

Don't care if the Prime Minister dyes his hair or not, as long as he isn't using the taxpayers' time and money to do so.
Hazel, UK

This is just another example of the mad world we live in. Who cares if his hair's dyed? I judge politicians on their actions not their hair colour! What a waste of time!
Leon, UK

If you look at some older pictures his hair is definitely a different colour

Mark Engelberg, England
Although it is not a major issue, if you look at some older pictures his hair is definitely a different colour - the main issue here is can the man tell the truth?
Mark Engelberg, England

Oh Please! Not only should the good Chancellor get out more, the media should get a life. What matters is not the colour on the outside but the quality of the thoughts within. Time to get real!
John, UK

Although this may seem a frivolous point to many if us, it is obviously important to the chancellor. We complain enough that politicians are liars, why should we not applaud one who insists that the truth is told? The news agency was given the opportunity to withdraw the statement and didn't. Good luck to him! If he wins, maybe it will make the news media think twice before making up stories, but I doubt it...
Daniel White, Bristol, UK

It would be really funny if he were to appear in court with bright green hair... still insisting that it was natural. Otherwise a sad reinforcement of the 'myth' of there being a German sense of humour (presumably its roaming in the forest of the Harz mountains along with the Yeti).
Billy-Rae, Germany

I "dyed" of laughter when I heard it on the German news this morning. I just can not believe that a politician takes this so seriously. All I can say is: Welcome to the Kindergarten!
Ian, Luxembourg

How can he be open to accusations of frivolity? How about the newspapers who printed the story? Was this piece of news particularly vital to the German public? To me this begs a wider question: Whose fault is it that we focus on the image of our politicians more than their policies and actions? The media's or the politicians'?
Brian, Scotland

If the decisive factor in determining who becomes Chancellor of Germany is a private decision on hair colour, then England's businessmen should be rubbing their hands at the thought of an economic 'Deutschland 1 England 5'.
Rhys Jaggar, England

See also:

29 Jan 02 | UK
Grey, mein Herr?

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