Editor’s Note: Last night on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Fallon asked Donald Trump if he could mess up his hair–and surprisingly, he was granted permission. The result? A train wreck of a coif. But also: a powerful reminder that Trump is in badly need of a haircut. We’ll let writer Mike Sager take it from here…

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 3.54.02 PM

**

If the eyes are a mirror of the soul, the hair is like a billboard.

Man or woman or somewhere in-between, the way one chooses to wear one’s hair is the ultimate visual expression of self. You can’t change how tall you are. You have no say in your body type. But your hair, beyond its physical characteristics, is another matter.

I used to have a ton of hair. Down to here, out to there. I was in high school. I played guitar in a rock band and walked all clumpy like Mr. Natural. Some of my friends’ older brothers were in Vietnam fighting the war or in Canada evading it. My hair back then was a political statement. I let my freak flag fly.

In college I embraced the disco era. Do your own thing—but have a career to fall back on. I sported a brushed back helmet of hair, a little like John Travolta’s in Saturday Night Fever.

Like the decision to grow a beard many years before, cutting off my hair just made sense. It was the path of least maintenance.

I graduated college and got a job in a stressful business. By 22 I was working the night police beat at a major newspaper. By 23, my hairline was making a swift retreat. John Travolta no more. If I went too long without a haircut, I looked more like Bozo the Clown.

At first, I started freaking out. Then I discovered, unexpectedly, that premature baldness kind of worked in my favor. Looking a bit older made me appear more age-appropriate for my job; people took me more seriously. Plus, I started dating older women. I liked how they were more sure of themselves than the younger ones; I was working eighty hours a week, half of those on the dark side of the clock. I really didn’t have a lot of time to fart around. Losing my hair didn’t seem like such a big deal.

**

Prone as I am to symbolic acts—a symptom, perhaps, of longtime agnosticism—I shaved my head for the first time on my 30th birthday, in August of 1986.

By this time I no longer had any detectable hair on the top of my head, and there was no proven way to make it grow back. All the other solutions—combovers, toupees, hair weaves, transplants, scalp reductions—ultimately looked fake.

This was my thought process: If I couldn’t really do anything with my fringe of hair except keep it trimmed—at a cost of about $25 every three weeks—why even have hair at all? Like the decision to grow a beard many years before, cutting off my hair just made sense. It was the path of least maintenance.

sager-ids

For the next five years I was pretty much the only bald guy in my circle, or any circle I came into contact with. Being bald, I discovered the joy of washing your entire head in the sink on a hot day. Never again did I wake up with bedhead and have to wet my hair and restyle it just to leave the house. And I could take off a sweater anytime I liked.

I also learned other things, more unexpected. Wherever I went, people didn’t quite know how to place me. Unsettled, they would ask, “What are you?” With my dark skin and beard and early adopter earring, cops took me for a criminal, criminals took me for a cop. Upon landing in Tel Aviv, a Jew arriving for the first time in the Promised Land, I was surrounded by a team of Israeli law enforcement officers in khakis and pastel polo shirts, guns drawn. Stepping into line at my local bank, with a sizable check to deposit, I noticed the woman in front of me change the position of her purse and hunch protectively into herself.

Then, in 1991, 28-year-old Michael Jordan, faced with premature male pattern baldness, made the decision to shave his head. That year, he went on to win the first of six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls.

Soon, everybody was shaving their heads; bald was embraced as an acceptable and even mundane fashion choice. As more and more baby boomers began to lose their hair, many came to the same conclusion. It just made sense.

This finger so often employed on the nozzle of a can of his favored CHI Helmet Head hair spray—is this the finger we want hovering over the nuclear launch button?

I remember clearly the day in 2001 that the worm turned for me. I was at a ritzy hotel on the beach in Santa Monica, in the bar, waiting to interview a celebrity. My cell phone rang. It was the PR woman. As I’d grown accustomed to doing, I described myself sitting at the table, “Bald with a beard and an earring.”

There was a beat of silence. Then she chortled and said, “Which one?”

**

Donald Trump’s hair: It’s an issue of character.

The billboard of his soul does not display a pretty picture.

What is this man thinking?

This finger so often employed on the nozzle of a can of his favored CHI Helmet Head hair spray—is this the finger we want hovering over the nuclear launch button?

Over the course of the campaign, standing at podiums across the country with his hair hunkered so triumphantly upon his head, like a crown of spun gold, Trump has handily employed the rhetoric of ignorance and hatred to tap into a not-so-silent majority of the Republican Party. Watching the speeches and rallies, hearing the sound bites and the cheers, it’s hard to believe what I’m seeing, that there are Americans who feel like they do. And it’s hard to stand by while Trump whips them into a frenzy of racism and xenophobia.

Trump-hair-featured

But fair is fair. Trump has followed the rules—he even financed the primary contest himself. He has bested his competition. He stands on the brink of garnering the Republican nomination.

Because we live in a democracy, and because so many people seem to agree with the kind of things Trump has to say, I cannot say he is unfit to lead our nation.

As a voter, however, and as an American citizen, I am guaranteed by the Constitution a certain transparency in government.

Trump’s hair, quite literally, is a cover-up—always there, mocking us, making us wonder: What is he hiding? What’s going on under there? What deep and damaging personal issues has he not brought to bear?

What is he thinking when he looks in the mirror?

There’s some possibility that Trump’s crazy hairdo is an attempt to cover up a botched scalp reduction surgery. If that’s the case, we’ll understand, won’t we? Does he really think his voting public will care about a few scars? Maybe it would even make him more likeable, more human, as telling the truth tends to do.

Either way, we can’t have this guy running for president—and spending federal funds to do it—with a dead skunk on his head.

Donald Trump must come clean.

Join me in signing the Made Man petition today.

 

Mike Sager is a bestselling author and award-winning reporter. For more, click here.

Lead illustration: Bryan Mayes