Furore over $15k pay for Hollande's hairdresser

A report has revealed that French President Francois Hollande's hairdresser is paid over US$10,000 a month.
President Hollande, who has always portrayed himself as "Mr Normal", is being criticised for extravagant spending.
President Hollande, who has always portrayed himself as "Mr Normal", is being criticised for extravagant spending.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PARIS • Short on the sides and thinning on top, French President Francois Hollande's hair is kept perfectly groomed at a cost of almost 10,000 euros (S$15,000) a month, the Canard Enchaine weekly reported yesterday.

The unpopular leader's hair has never been the topic of scrutiny, unlike other high-profile male politicians such as US presidential candidate Donald Trump or former London mayor Boris Johnson.

However the publication of the contract of his hairdresser, identified only as Olivier B., by the investigative newspaper had the French bristling over such extravagant spending by a Socialist president.

"I can understand the questions, I can understand that there are judgments," said government spokesman Stephane Le Foll, who confirmed the hairdresser's steep salary of 9,895 euros a month.

A lawmaker with the far-right National Front referred to Mr Hollande as "his majesty" on Twitter, while other users superimposed afros, mullets and other hairstyles on pictures of the President, to "help his hairdresser earn his salary".

The hashtag #Coiffeurgate was trending on Twitter in France.

Some Twitter users also suggested that choosing balding candidates for the presidency next year, such as Mr Alain Juppe of the opposition Republicans, could save taxpayers money.

An image of President Hollande with a beanie photoshopped onto his head was captioned "budget cuts".

Mr Hollande himself earns an annual wage of 179,000 euros a year or 14,900 euros a month.

The Canard Enchaine reported that in addition to his salary, the hairdresser was entitled to a "housing allowance" and other "family benefits".

He has been employed since 2012 and travels with the President on most of his foreign trips.

The hairdresser's contract states that he must "maintain absolute secrecy about his work and any information he may have gathered both during and after his contract".

Mr Hollande, who was elected in 2012, has always portrayed himself as "Mr Normal", in stark contrast to his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy whose flashy lifestyle saw him dubbed "President Bling Bling".

A series of political and personal scandals along with a moribund economy and stubborn unemployment levels have driven Mr Hollande's popularity rating to the lowest levels ever seen in modern French history.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2016, with the headline 'Furore over $15k pay for Hollande's hairdresser'. Print Edition | Subscribe