Feature writing

Dyeing on his feet

Hairstylists say Rudy Giuliani’s TV disaster should be a lesson to us all

The Daily Beast

November 20, 2020

Hairstylists watched Rudy Giuliani’s dribbling streak of hair dye—or makeup, or fake tan—with fascinated horror. Take it as a lesson in careful coloring, or embracing going gray.

The staff at Blackstones salon in New York City’s East Village watched in fascinated horror Thursday afternoon as the slick brown trickles of maybe hair dye, maybe makeup, maybe fake tan oozed from Rudy Giuliani’s sideburns.

“We saw it,” Blackstones colorist and educator Patti O’Gara told The Daily Beast. “It was a collective ‘Ewwww.’ We were like, ‘It’s just so gross and it won’t stop dripping.’”

Giuliani was holding forth at his latest low-on-legal-evidence, high-on-decibels election rigging press conference for President Trump—this one at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee in Washington, D.C.—but his huffing, puffing, and democracy-imperiling lies were superseded by an on-camera hair and makeup disaster.

O’Gara and other stylists agreed that if it was hair dye flowing forth from Giuliani’s hair, it was something hastily sprayed in or applied before Trump’s chief legal henchman took to the microphone to start a now customary elongated bout of shouting.

Forty minutes in, Giuliani began to melt down, literally; less the “elite strike force” Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis had invoked, and more a sodden, handkerchief-wielding Willy Loman.

Mirko Vergani, creative color director of The Drawing Room New York salon, told The Daily Beast: “I watched it, and I was like, ‘How can this person work in politics and appear on TV like this?’ It was kind of funny. It looked really weird. Also, whoever applied the dye put in way too much and did not blend it properly. It was a big dark patch, and then we saw what happened.”

Erica Fleischman, who owns three Fleischman salons in Manhattan with her husband, Lee, saw Giuliani’s hair disaster and told The Daily Beast that recognized something she knows all too well: an older man terrified of going gray, suddenly seeing a gray hair or patch of gray before a public appearance and panicking—then it’s out with some cheap spray. “Now look where we’ve ended up,” she said. “The moral of the story is you have got to go with your natural color. Then get the best haircut to make you look modern and younger.”

Fleischman does not allow any of her extremely wealthy, older male clientele to dye their hair. “I’m very tough,” said Fleischman. “I’m known for that. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I am known for my brutal honesty. I know what works. I have a lot of passion for that, and I have the confidence of doing it for so many years of knowing what works.”

Fleischman told The Daily Beast that she would tell Giuliani to wash out whatever was sprayed in his hair, “and never use it again. I think he learned his lesson. Let it be natural. Get a good haircut. Embrace that gray. And oh, a reminder: You’re not fooling anyone. Even if the color wasn’t dripping down your face at a press conference, everyone knows you’re coloring it. My advice to Rudy is, ‘Dude, you’ve got to leave your hair alone—and if today wasn’t a lesson for you, what is?’”

“Everyone that has gray hair lets it rock naturally,” Fleischman said. “People come in and say, ‘Should I be coloring my hair?’ My answer is always no. I would say coloring your hair most times makes you look older, it absolutely ages people. If you have a great modern haircut and natural silver hair, you will totally shine. Guys like Giuliani won’t accept it. Obviously he’s balding on top, and coloring everything else. If he’d kept it natural, he would never have to worry about anything like this happening.”

O’Gara doesn’t think Giuliani’s offending streaks came about because of permanent hair dye, which—if properly applied, processed, and rinsed—wouldn’t become a tell-tale waterfall. “If it was hair dye, this is a quick fix, temporary solution, which you apply because you have no time. Mixed with sweat, this is what can happen.”

But O’Gara wasn’t convinced that Giuliani’s hellacious rivulet came from hair dye at all. “He looks like to be wearing a decent amount of fake tan or bronzer or some kind of face makeup. So if it’s not a shitty hair dye situation, it could be fake tan dripping because it does streak like that when you sweat. It’s hard to tell where it’s originating from—his hair or his skin.”

Vergani said Giuliani, and others like him, should apply such dye the day before an appearance and ensure that a towel is used to mop up excess product. Neither happened here, Vergani guesses. “Also, if you are doing something quick, use something dry like a powder or mascara. It won’t streak like what happens with too much spray, a lot of heat, and sweat. We also use a special gel dye, which lasts around six weeks. It leaves a naturally blended look.” Giuliani’s current look, where very white and very dark hair coexist, “looks completely fake.”

O’Gara noted that “a little bit of self-awareness” should go into applying dye or makeup in haste. “If you run hot, or sweat profusely, you need to exercise caution. If you’re nervous, you’ll sweat more in situations like that. Quick fixes are great for photographs and things like that, but not if you’re about to speak to the press about a controversial topic.” She paused: “I’m trying so hard to be neutral here.”

Giuliani isn’t the first Trump official to appear on television with seriously weird hair. There is Trump himself, of course, and the mystery of whatever strange marmalade-colored thatch, or temperamental endangered species, has crowned his head for so many years. There is Stephen Miller, whose reputation for policy cruelty was—for one day at least—overshadowed in 2018 by the alleged spray-on hair he sported on an edition of Face the Nation. “It’s supposed to make thinning hair like his look less sparse, but I don’t think it ever looks natural,” said O’Gara. “My opinion is that you should embrace what is going on and make that look its best instead of trying to cover it up in artificial ways.”

All the hair-based dysfunction of this administration can be teased back to Trump. “I feel his existing hairstyle has been his hairstyle his entire life,” said O’Gara. “It’s always been about him clinging to his glory days and feeling like he’s the most powerful, rich man on top of the world. That doesn’t seem to change, despite any kind of defeat. That hairstyle is indicative of his personality, his narcissism and never changing.”

O’Gara suspects Trump wears a hairpiece, as well as a heavily sprayed combover. “Video of his hair blowing like the hood of a car is extremely vindicating for hairdressers,” she said. “We knew he was bald under there. There you go. He’s just brushing it over, shellacking it, and just hoping for the best.”

Fleischman points to noted silver foxes like George Clooney and Sean Connery (RIP), as examples of powerful Hollywood stars who have embraced gray, rather than dye-jobs. Trump, she says, will never embrace his gray (even if he has looked more silvery of late).

“He would look better if he did let it go gray and have a more appropriate haircut, and he would look better if he didn’t spray tan himself, and if he wasn’t orange. But it won’t happen. He hasn’t changed his hair, no matter how much fun is made of it or how much the wind fucks it up. This is his look. That’s why everyone can play him at Halloween. He’s like a guy in costume.”

You sense that Giuliani would benefit from a talking-to from Fleischman. She is tough on her business-titan clients.

“When they first come in, they will say they have not been dyeing their hair. But I always call them out on their bullshit.” She uses a scissor and comb with all of them; there are no undercuts or fades. “We do classic haircuts. Sometimes it takes some time to get through to them. I’ve seen dirty blond dyes that fade to purple and green, and some men try to have the same color as they had when they were 16. It always ends up looking like they have shoe polish on their heads. When they let their hair go silver and get a proper haircut, they get compliments. I ask them if they ever got compliments when they were dyeing their hair and the answer is always ‘No.’”

O’Gara’s male clientele are not generally looking to conceal gray hair, she said. With shorter hair, a dye job can look too obviously “boot polish” or inky in hue. Men, she said, are combing in dyes subtly, diffusing the gray without obliterating it completely. “In terms of a paint, think watercolor versus something heavy and opaque,” O’Gara said.

There has also been an uptick in male clients bleaching their hair, noted O’Gara, going silver blond “just for kicks and the hell of it. It’s not about covering the gray but breaking the norm and doing something a little wild.” (Which sounds very on-brand for Giuliani right now.)

O’Gara knows exactly what Giuliani should do next, at least when it comes to his hair. “I would say in 2020 there are lots of things that have happened that we are not normally accepting of, so let your grays fly, Rudy.”