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The masterfully manipulative Eleanor Shaw.

Women in politics have it rough. Not only is it a merciless, dog-eat-dog, male-dominated field, but they also have to be incredibly meticulous with their appearance, much more so than their male counterparts, lest they look weak, inexperienced, or unprofessional. Perhaps the hardest, most tragic part of this ordeal for a woman politician is that the only acceptable hairstyle she can have is Power Hair.

It consists of a short cut reaching the jawline, parted in front and coiffed expertly with mousse or hair net and swept towards the edge of the jaw, so you'll never see it cross in front of the face like many a lovestruck Damsel Scrappy does incessantly. Power Hair is patterned somewhat on the hairstyle commonly used by flappers in the twenties (emancipated women, the ones you always see in Al Capone movies with tube dresses to the knees and cloche hats shaped like little tea cosies on their heads). Another common variation is cutting it short all over but leaving it longer near the top and "sweeping" it upwards.

Power Hair is so pervasive it's worked its way even into Disney cartoons. However, it's stereotypically given to villainesses. Whether this is out of fear of women's movements or to give them an air of authority is an exercise left to the reader.

This trope is an example of Truth in Television: many (if not all) female politicians will have Power Hair or a variation thereof. It's a brave woman who wears a different hairstyle, and a political juggernaut if she does so and remains successful. Possibly justified in that shorter hair is becoming a fad with older women in the West since it's easier to care for, and few politicians get to the top in their youth.

See also Iron Lady, who is likely to sport this hairstyle.

Examples of Power Hair include:

Anime and Manga

  • A rare anime example is Ryoko from The Case Files of Yakushiji Ryoko, who isn't so much a villainess as a self-interested Jerkass 90% of the time, especially in comparison to her rival Yukiko, who has a much more traditional Japanese hairstyle of long black hair pulled back.
  • Ran's mother in Detective Conan, who is a lawyer, mostly has this, although there are some strands that fall in front of her ears.
  • Sylia Stingray from the Bubblegum Crisis OVAs has this hairstyle, as does Prime Minister Kayabuki in Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig. Both of them were played by Yoshiko Sakakibara, who has Power Hair in Real Life.
  • Student Council President Nodoka Manabe from K-On! sports this, although she's actually pretty friendly.
  • Subverted by Balalaika, who has the long, flowing hair you usually see on a Damsel.
  • Subverted in Hellsing with Integra, the leader of the Hellsing organization and the leash on world's most powerful vampire, Alucard. Has long straight hair that reaches beyond her shoulders.


  • Glenn Close as the vice president in Air Force One.
  • Meryl Streep's character in The Devil Wears Prada is a good modern film example.
  • In Sliding Doors the Helen who catches the train gets one.
  • Another of Streep's memorable performances was in the remake of The Manchurian Candidate, where she plays a senator and mother to Raymond Shaw, again with typical Power Hair.
  • Angela Lansbury in the original The Manchurian Candidate. She's the the power behind the throne of her politician husband. Her Power Hair is poofier, but is short enough to qualify.
  • In American Beauty, Carolyn Burnham's methods of "projecting an image of success at all times" was a shock of Power Hair.
  • Judi Dench as M in the James Bond series.
  • Male example: Adrian Veidt in Watchmen. No, really.
  • Holland Taylor as Professor Stromwell in Legally Blonde
  • Mon Mothma, leader of the Rebel Alliance, from Return of the Jedi. One of the few sci-fi examples of this trope.
  • Elizabeth Perkins in Big. As she goes from a hard-nosed businesswoman to a more whimsical romantic interest, her hair softens from scene to scene.
  • Rachel in Blade Runner, in an '80s version. At least, until she lets it down...

Live Action TV

  • Jenny Shepherd, director of NCIS goes through a number of hairstyles, but this seems to be the most common.
  • Angela Petrelli of Heroes has Power Hair to go along with her painfully perfect cutthroat high society aide. It really shouldn't come as a surprise when it turns out she's the Evil Matriarch and in league with Linderman to destroy New York.
    • In later seasons the actress's hair got longer, and she started arranging it in a very tight updo which creates an even more power-y effect. The comparison became obvious in a flashback to pre-season 1 before Arthur's apparent death.
  • Kathryn Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager, although less obviously so as the series went on (in the first season it was so heavily moussed it would probably have worked as a crash helmet).
    • Her original hairdo was the Power Bun. Later she got an unimportant haircut, not quite up to Power Hair standards.
    • Seven of Nine's hairstyle is intended to look like this, even though she actually has long hair in a French twist.
  • Major Kira Nerys in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine started off with Power Hair, cropped it later, and finally grew it back to a more Power Hair-like cut.
  • Cherry Jones as President Allison Taylor on 24.
  • Inara's client "The Counselor" from Firefly has hair like this.
  • Subverted greatly with President Laura Roslin in Battlestar Galactica, whose flowing locks were greatly missed once she lost her hair due to cancer treatments.
  • Adelle De Witt from Dollhouse has slightly longer than average Power Hair by season two, but it's still much shorter than her hair in season one.
  • Maggie Walsh from Buffy the Vampire Slayer wore her hair like this.
  • Eva Thorne from Eureka has classic Power Hair, befitting her business-like persona and background.
  • Leslie's mother on Parks and Recreation, who is the head of the Department of Education, has this haircut.
  • On Veep, vice president Selina Myers has a longer version of this currently, around a medium length, but averted this in the opening montage symbolizing her earlier career aspirations. Amy, her chief of staff, has hair ending slightly longer than hers while Sue, her secretary, has longer hair than both though she keeps it in some sort of bun most of the time.


  • This is the default haircut given to young girls who are selected as otokoyaku (actresses specializing in trouser roles) in the Takarazuka Revue, due to its ability to be styled into a fully masculine appearance when playing men onstage. Older otokoyaku are still expected to keep their hair relatively short, but some have it further cropped into a pixie-ish style, while others grow it out to a more tousled, feminine shag that only looks male onstage.

Western Animation

Real Life

  • Hillary Clinton is probably the most famous example, since she always had a youthful hairstyle that that went past her shoulders...until she became first lady, at which point she almost immediately opted for a shorter, more "mature" haircut.
    • Unfortunately this got her almost immediately labeled as power hungry, even though she never made statements more than expression ambition (which is what politicians need to have of course).
    • She has let it grow back out a bit since becoming Secretary of State, though.
  • Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany
  • Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile. Also, several of her female advisors and ladies from the opposition, like right-wing senator Evelyn Matthei.
  • Condoleeza Rice, former US Secretary of State
  • Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader of the US House of Representatives (and former Speaker)
  • Kim Campbell, very briefly Canadian Prime Minister
    • Other prominent female Canadian politicians of Campbell's generation such as Alexa McDonough and Sheila Copps fall under this as well. More recently, many female Canadian Members of Parliament have subverted this trope, with Olivia Chow, Ruby Dhalla, Nina Grewal and Belinda Stronach, all sporting free-flowing hair past the shoulders.
  • Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister.
    • Although her hair was in a perm when she was younger.
  • Tarja Halonen, President of Finland. Unfortunately, this makes her a dead ringer for Conan O'Brien.
  • Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand.
  • Notable exception: Yulia Tymoshenko, former Prime Minister of Ukraine, is known for wearing a complex braid that forms a kind of circle on the back and top of her head ("Heidi braids", or "Leia braids", if you prefer). Interestingly, the end result is a similar sillhoutte.
  • Subverted by Sarah Palin, former Governor of Alaska and former Vice Presidential candidate of the Republican Party in the United States, who has long hair which she often pulls back in a sort of half-ponytail half-bun. Ever since quitting her Governorship (and arguably since being parodied dead-on by Tina Fey), she appears in public much more often with her hair down.
  • An interesting exception (why not to say a political juggernaut) is Brazilian politician Heloísa Helena, who even got her place as a senator, and founded her own dissident party (in a multi-party system, it's not difficult). She uses a simple fringeless ponytail, like she just ties her hair and such. Of course, being from the left wing might explain such behavior.
    • President Dilma Rousseff plays the trope straight, however.
  • Averted with Kate Ellis, Australia's current Youth and Sport minister, who looks like this.
  • Averted with Tzipi Livni, Israel's former foreign minister and current Leader of the Opposition. While her hair isn't exactly long, it's not short, either, and it's not Power Hair by any stretch of the imagination.
  • Averted by former French Presidential candidate Ségolène Royal (she's left-wing), while played straight by right-wing politicians such as current and previous Ministers of Justice.
  • Averted by Meg Whitman, former CEO of EBay, current President and CEO of Hewlitt-Packard, and the Republican candidate to succeed the Governator in 2010 (she lost to Democrat Jerry Brown); she wears her hair medium-length.
  • On the other hand, another California businesswoman, Carly Fiorina, is a prime example of Power Hair. Incidentally, she also headed up H-P (as Chairman, President, and CEO 2000-2005) and also ran for office (a US Senate seat from California) in 2010 (and lost to Democrat Barbara Boxer, who incidentally also sports power hair).
  • Roza Otunbayeva, who overthrew the government of Kyrgyzstan and became head of the interim government, has this kind of hair.
  • Averted by Julia Gillard, the new Prime Minister of Australia, who wears her hair in a sort of bob.
  • Considering what Cyndi Lauper used to look like back in The Eighties, it's astonishing to see her with this kind of hairstyle. [dead link]
    • The female presidents of the Philippines, Corazon Aquino and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, used variations of Power Hair in their term of office.