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Republican Presidential Candidates: Can A Hairstyle Determine Their Fate?

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It turns out it's hip to be square -- as far as hairstyles are concerned anyway.

While I was interviewing New York City stylist James Corbett of the James Corbett Studio & Spa for NBC's StyleGoesStrong.com on the best hairstyle shape for men -- he was explaining why the square shape is best -- all I could picture was Mitt Romney.

Is that really the best hairstyle for him, I asked Corbett, because, yes, it is square but, well, it is really square.

The recent Republican debates and surrounding hullabaloo in New Hampshire sprang to mind -- and all the men's hairstyles began floating in my imagination like disembodied wigs. It was scary.

Honestly, sometimes I can't tell them all apart. Except for Ron Paul, who looks like Gandalf to me, or at least a sort of Hobbit version of Gandalf.

Then I recalled Carly Fiorina's attack on Barbara Boxer's hair and grousing back then about why women in the political arena are subject to personal appearance commentary far more than men. Hillary Clinton has remarked with wry humor on her consternation over the acute attention to her hairstyles.

There's a running theory that ever since the Kennedy-Nixon election -- i.e., that fateful TV debate -- that the best-looking man wins. I contend that if, in the George W. Bush vs. John Kerry face-off, Kerry's advisers had spun him as more Abe Lincoln-like, rather than trying to compete for good-ole-boy status, Kerry would have been much better positioned.

But back to the candidates at hand. In the interest of gender equality in politics, especially now that Michele Bachmann is out of the race, I decided to ask stylist James Corbett for his take on the hairstyles of the current candidates in the debates. Perhaps it would offer a little insight.

Here is what Corbett said:

Mitt Romney: Yes, I did say the square shape is best for men's hairstyles, but this is too extreme. This is a hairstyle that is probably very planned. The lines are so clean and the edges so sharp, he looks like a 1950s action figure, or out to win a 'Who's the most conservative?' contest. [Stephen Colbert would probably win that contest by a hair's breadth.]

Ron Paul: His hairstyle goes in the opposite direction. Not round so much as too messy, like he just rolled out of bed, or out of his bathrobe at the Playboy mansion. He's trying to suggest hipness, a youthful casualness.

Newt Gingrich: Way too round. He already has a round face and a round body [I flash on the description of Santa Claus in 'Twas the Night Before Christmas while James Corbett is talking], so round hair too just makes him look like an Oompa Loompa.

Rick Perry, Rick Santorum: These two men, Corbett and I agreed, can be tough to distinguish from each other. And it doesn't help that they have the same first name. Corbett suggests they both employ a comb-over that's too extreme [he explains to me that a comb-over doesn't necessarily have to do with baldness]. With Rick Santorum's sort of 'duck-tail' and Rick Perry's too-sharp part, they both resemble your '70s prom date, replete with too much Brut cologne. [How did he know!]

Jon Huntsman: He has a sort of 1950s district attorney swoop going on. It's a bit poofy on the sides and top, which makes him look like a caricature or cartoon character to me -- or the honey badger! In many pictures, it looks like he has too much hairspray keeping it in place -- don't let him near any fireworks or he could combust. The color though is perfect, although the one distinct side of grey reminds me of Paulie in The Sopranos.

But. Never one to present criticism without offering a solution, I tapped James Corbett again to see what he would suggest to these presidential wannabes (and a few others) to give them a (hair)cutting edge. He happily obliged. (See: "Presidential Candidates: Can a Hairstyle Makeover Make a Winner?")

Hairstylist and salon owner James Corbett is also the proud founder of Hair2Help, a nonprofit organization that provides holistic beauty & wellness services to cancer patients and their caregivers.

Gerit Quealy writes on hairstyle & substance at NBC's StyleGoesStrong.com.