François Hollande cites staff cuts to defend €10,000 barber bill

French president forced to explain grooming arrangements during Bastille Day interview

French president François Hollande at the annual Bastille Day military parade on the Champs Élysées  in Paris: Revelations by a French newspaper that the socialist leader spends nearly €10,000 a month on his   barber has been dubbed Coiffeurgate. Photograph: Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images

French president François Hollande at the annual Bastille Day military parade on the Champs Élysées in Paris: Revelations by a French newspaper that the socialist leader spends nearly €10,000 a month on his barber has been dubbed Coiffeurgate. Photograph: Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images

 

French president François Hollande has hit back at criticism of the exorbitant price of his haircuts.

Revelations that the socialist leader – elected on a populist mandate of taxing the super-rich – spends nearly €10,000 a month on his presidential barber has been dubbed Coiffeurgate.

In his traditional Bastille Day televised interview, Mr Hollande (61) who has thinning, dark hair, was forced to defend his spending.

He said that since being elected in 2012 as a self-styled “Monsieur Normal” and defender of the poor, he has cut his own salary by 30 per cent, reduced the Élysée Palace budget by €9 million and cut its staff by 10 per cent.

“You can reproach me on anything you like, but not on that,” he said, visibly uncomfortable with the subject.

Declaring that he was not the person responsible for overseeing his grooming arrangements, Mr Hollande said that “concerning the hairdresser’s costs, we used to use external contractors until now, and I preferred that it was handled from here”.

Critics expressed surprise that a leader whose hair is thinning could spend so much per month, when an upmarket men’s haircut in Paris costs in the region of €50. There was no suggestion that the money was being used for hair plugs or other surgical hair costs.

Detractors noted that Mr Hollande was elected because comments such as “I do not like the rich” marked a strong contrast with the image of his conservative predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, who favoured flashy jewellery and fancy restaurants.

Labour law reforms

French media calculated that Mr Hollande’s monthly hair spending is nearly four times that of an average French worker’s salary.

The Bastille Day interview follows the country’s national military parade down the grand Champs-Élysées boulevard in Paris. If polls are to be believed, this could be Mr Hollande’s last Bastille Day as France’s leader.

The original story by the Le Canard Enchainé newspaper was confirmed on Wednesday by French government spokesman Stephane Le Foll, who awkwardly tried to defend his boss.

“Doesn’t everyone have their hair done?” he quipped, adding that the barber is present in France and on trips abroad. “He is always there.”

Frosty relations

Valerie TrierweilerJulie Gayet

Mr Hollande’s image has been important for his political persona since the once-portly politician drastically slimmed down ahead of his 2012 election victory.

–(AP)