The Time Donald Trump’s Hair Looked Normal for a Day

Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and four years in office contained so much daily weirdness, wackiness, and horror that the human brain couldn’t comprehend it all. As Trump gets close to the White House again, “That Happened” brings you the surreal moments you may have forgotten — or blocked from your memory.

Throughout his long public life — particularly during the halcyon era when he was more “kitschy national joke” and less “guy who might end American democracy” — Donald Trump’s hair has been both a trademark physical trait and a durable punch line. Trump’s unruly mane has undergone many changes over the years, but whether it was auburn, orange, or something close to neon, and whether it remained in place or was being tousled by a fawning Jimmy Fallon, it always retained its signature puffiness.

So it was truly jarring when in June of 2019, Trump showed up one day in Virginia and revealed a slicked-back hairstyle that transformed his entire appearance. This unsettling moment was recently recaptured in a popular tweet:

Such is the strangeness of the photo (and the extent to which amnesia afflicts even close watchers of Trump’s tenure in office) that upon its recirculation five years later, my colleagues wondered if it had been Photoshopped. But Trump is no Kate Middleton; this really happened:

The occasion was actually a somber one. Per a contemporaneous Mashable article: “On Sunday, Trump debuted his new look in an unscheduled visit to McLean Bible Church in Vienna, Virginia, to pray for the community and the 12 people who were killed in the Virginia Beach shooting on May 31.” (That this shooting may not ring a bell either is a whole different conversation.) The simple reason for the president’s physical transformation is that he had come straight from his golf club in Sterling, Virginia, and presumably did not have time for his usual primping routine beforehand. This would also explain the rest of his getup, which was not exactly appropriate for the occasion: khakis, sports jacket, and golf shoes — though the ex-president’s religious fans are famously forgiving of such protocol breaches.

When the images originally circulated back in 2019, social media was briefly ablaze with users comparing Trump’s do with those of a variety of characters, among them Michael Scott in season one of The Office. The most frequent comparison was a familiar one: Biff Tannen, the boorish Back to the Future villain who was partly based on Trump.

Within a day, Trump’s hair was back to its usual bouncy self, and his ephemeral transformation all but vanished into the mists of time. It’s tempting to say that we briefly got a peek at what a real Biff Tannen presidency would look like. But really, Trump’s entire time in office was one long glimpse at that.

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