Hollande's hairdresser paid €10 000 a month
13 July 2016, 19:00
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 a month, the Canard Enchaine weekly reported on Wednesday.
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 judgements," said government spokesperson Stephane Le Foll, who confirmed the hairdresser's steep salary of €9 895 (about R156 835) a month.
"Everyone has their hair done, don't they?" said Le Foll, his trademark thick grey mane flopping over his forehead.
A lawmaker with the far-right National Front (FN) referred to 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 other balding candidates for the presidency in 2017, such as Alain Juppe of the opposition Republicans, could save taxpayers money. An image of Hollande with a beanie photoshopped onto his head was captioned "budget cuts".
Hollande himself earns an annual wage of €179 000 a year, or €14 900 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".
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 Hollande's popularity rating to the lowest levels ever seen in modern French history.
Critics on the left of his party accuse him of betraying Socialist ideals and cosying up to business with a series of economic and labour reforms, despite stating during campaigning that the world of finance was his "enemy".
Hollande has said he will decide by the end of the year whether to stand in next year's presidential election, but he has said a re-election bid would depend on his success in cutting unemployment.