If the leaders of the world’s biggest economy and most isolated nation have one thing in common, it may be an obsession with unique hairstyles.
The US must take North Korea’s security worries seriously
Trump and Kim go head to head in the battle of the hairstyles
Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un each have a signature hairdo that acts as the centerpiece of their public image.
The supreme leader of North Korea has developed a trademark cut, with shaved sides and the hair on top slicked back flat on top.
Meanwhile, Trump has been known for his crispy crown even since he first entered New York City’s property market in the 1970s.
So when these style pioneers meet in Singapore this week, which “do” is going to stand out?
Kim Robinson, a Hong Kong-based celebrity stylist who has counted Princess Diana and singer Rita Ora among his clients, says the North Korean leader is poised to win a hair war that takes place in a humid, tropical climate.
“Trump’s hair is going to collapse in Singapore. It is going to be a mess because of the humidity.”
The hairdresser explains that Trump’s hairdo depends heavily on styling products. The president seems to have his thin, long hair brushed to the back and uses spray to hold it in place.
That said, Trump is unlikely to be spending too much time outside in the sweltering heat. Singapore’s notoriously overly air-conditioned rooms may actually work in his favor.
The hairdo has not fared well in extreme weather in the past. In February, photos of Trump’s hair being swept up by wind as he boarded Air Force One led to a wave of mockery on social media.
In the recent book Fire and Fury, journalist Michael Wolff reported that Ivanka Trump had also made fun of her father’s comb-over.
“She often described the mechanics behind it to friends: an absolutely clean pate - a contained island after scalp reduction surgery – surrounded by a furry circle of hair around the sides and front, from which all ends are drawn up to meet in the center and then swept back and secured by a stiffening spray.
“The color, she would point out to comical effect, was from a product called Just for Men – the longer it was left on, the darker it got. Impatience resulted in Trump’s orange-blonde hair color.”
Scalp reduction is a procedure to treat hair loss by removing the bald spots of the scalp.
Kim’s hair, on the other hand, is a simple “buzz cut” that requires little styling, according to Rennie Fensham, also a Hong Kong-based hairdresser.
He is likely to be getting haircuts every three or four weeks and spending a few minutes on combing and gelling it every day.
In contrast to Trump’s never-changing style from the 70s, Kim’s hairdo has only been evolving since he came to power in 2011. A careful observer of the photos will note a gradual flattening of the top of Kim’s head.
Fensham says Kim has likely adopted the haircut to look more like his grandfather Kim Il-sung, the regime’s founder who had “a neater, styled and more fierce military leader look."
“For Kim, his style is ‘traditional’, but it allows him to make a statement – his style is exclusively his,” she says. “For Kim, there is the added pressure of being a military leader, trying to make his way on the world stage.”
Although the cut has received much ridicule from overseas, the leader has so far kept it – some say it is because he is too powerful at home to have anyone deliver a critique.
Hairdressers say the trademark hairdos of both leaders point to their big egos.
“When somebody sticks to one style, it shows confidence and strength,” Robinson says. “Some people keep changing because they can’t find their best looks. These two gentlemen are both confident and both strong.”
No matter how many fans they have, neither seems to have must of a following when it comes to the ’do. Robinson says his customers have only requested not to be turned into either leader.
“The clients tend to say: ‘don’t make me look like Mr. Trump, and don’t make me look like Mr. Kim,’” he says. “It is because of the notorious personalities of both.”
Trump and Kim may be butting heads on Tuesday, but their hair will be staying put.