When it comes to spending their disposable incomes, the vast majority of U.S. citizens invest a great deal into personal care and image enhancing products. While this has not always been the case, figures published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest that between 1998 and 2008, the amount spent on personal care per individual soared by 54% in the United States. Even this jump in image consciousness does not adequately reflect the amount invested by some celebrities when it comes to the cost of a distinctive and individualistic hairstyles. So with this in mind, let's take a look at a few of history's costliest haircuts, and whether they were the bearer of good or bad fortune for their recipients.
TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics
When deciding to run for presidential election in 2007, candidate John Edwards could not have anticipated that a lavish haircut or two would undermine his chances of success so dramatically. A renowned campaigner against the rising level of poverty in the U.S., his rivals were left speechless after the media reported that he had paid more than $400 on two separate occasions for a trim at a popular Rodeo Drive salon. Having used campaign contributions to fund his haircuts, he was lambasted by a critical media and ridiculed across social networking sites such as Facebook and YouTube.
Things got significantly worse before they got better for John Edwards and his ailing campaign, especially when his stylist Joseph Torrenueva revealed that one of his haircuts actually cost more than $1,250. This was apparently because Mr. Torrenueva had to fly to Atlanta to meet his client, and subsequently missed two days of work. As a public relations exercise and reflection of his political values it was a travesty, and the beginning of the end for John Edwards as a serious presidential candidate. In terms of costly haircuts, there are few that have had such a profound effect on an individual's fortunes as well as bank balance. (For a related reading, check out Talk Is Cheap: Campaign Promises And The Economy.)
The Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah of Brunei
What the experience of John Edwards tells us is that it is not merely the price of the haircut itself that determines its overall cost, as the Sultan of Brunei will testify. In 2008, he spent a total $24,000 on a haircut from his regular stylist Ken Modestou, who worked at London's renowned Dorchester Hotel. Despite the stylist's usual fee for a cut being set at a modest $43, the Sultan commandeered a private suite on a Singapore Airline flight to courier Mr. Modestou swiftly and safely into the country.
This 7,000 mile round trip, in conjunction with the time that the stylist was required to take off work, contributed to a substantial final bill of $24,000. Now even though the Sultan boasts an estimated personal wealth of more than $17 billion, and had been receiving haircuts from Mr. Modestou for nearly two decades, the total cost served to shatter the previous world record for the world's most expensive trim. This had stood at an estimated $17,000, and was performed by world-renowned stylist Stuart Phillips at the bequest of a retired Italian millionaire.
Though taking the decision to change our look or the style of our haircut is often done instinctively, celebrities must take more care to protect both their image, and more importantly, their personal brand. This is a message that U.S. pop sensation Justin Bieber failed to heed in February of this year, when he decided to get a sudden haircut and had his iconic locks trimmed during a video shoot. This may seem innocent enough by itself, but it is far more damaging when you consider that toy manufacturer The Bridge Direct was in the process of manufacturing this year's range of Justin Bieber dolls for the Christmas market.
Given the vast difference between Justin Bieber's old haircut and the new style he had chosen to adopt, the company had no choice but to halt production and completely redesign each doll. Though this has been done in time to meet the huge Christmas demand, it cost The Bridge Direct a cool $100,000 in production and manufacturing costs. Though this remains a small and seemingly insignificant portion of the expected $100 million in sales revenue from Justin Bieber merchandise, $100,000 for a haircut is costly by anyone's standards.
The Bottom Line
The world's costliest haircuts cannot be measured by nickels and dimes alone, or even by the actual price of having a trim in the first instance. As John Edwards and others have proven, an impromptu haircut can have dramatic consequences, whether the trim itself cost $400 or $24,000. This is especially true in the strange and seemingly surreal world of the celebrity, where image is everything and the value of money seems increasingly irrelevant.