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Behind the numbers: Controversy over "Coiffeurgate"

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Emily Spencer

SocietyBehind the Numbers

Whether he's attending a cabinet meeting at the Elysée Palace, a NATO summit meeting in Warsaw or a rally organised in response to the new labour bill, François Hollande can’t afford a single hair out of place. Good thing French taxpayers are footing the bill. 

According to the weekly satirical magazine Le Canard Enchaîné, François Hollande’s personal hairdresser, Olivier Benhamou, receives a salary of 9,895 euros per month. Those in the know say that Benhamou’s skills in bringing life to the president’s thinning hair are unparalleled, hence the high price tag (by contrast, the average salary for an experienced hairdresser in France is around 1,514 euros a month).

Le Canard Enchaîné, known in France for its tongue-in-cheek tone, provided details about the hairdresser's work contract, which were confirmed by the Elysée Palace. Benhamou’s lawyer told the weekly paper that, "He must be available to attend to the president 24 hours a day, and nobody is allowed to work in his place," adding that he must start "very early in the morning and work the whole day". Benhamou even accompanies Hollande on official trips and therefore has had no choice but to close his Parisian salon.

Angela Merkel, on the other hand, has a very different style; she pays just 65 euros on average for a haircut, and goes in person to the salon "just as the other customers do", according to her Berlin hairdresser Udo Waltz. "She sits next to Mrs Meier or Mrs Müller - she is by no means separated from the other customers. The salon runs as it normally would.”

However, even Merkel’s pragmatic approach to her looks has its limits: on state visits, she "always has a woman with her who does her hair and make-up". Here’s hoping she’s well paid for the privilege.


This article is part of our Behind the Numbers series, illustrating newsworthy stats with artistic design and a brief analysis.

Translated from Zahltag: Hollandes haarige Enthüllung