Until yesterday, the story of the leaked “Afghan War Diaries” was one of intrigue, espionage, treason, and battle, sparking near-simultaneous outcries of praise and outrage internationally. And then Gawker broke by far the most dramatic development in the Wikileaks saga: Wikileaks entity Julian Assange dyed his hair. No, really– it’s brown now, or at least part of it is. We’re still waiting on human rights organizations to release a letter of condemnation about this.
Assange’s hair, previously a mop of monochrome silver casually swept to the side, is now very short and uneven in both length and color. For those of us who, despite whatever opinion we may have had about his organization, appreciated the image he had created for himself as a computer demigod who could both look and talk the part, the new (and younger-looking) Assange on Swedish TV last night looked incomplete, like a voice actor had stepped in for him. The following evaluation comes with the disclaimer that I am only a professional arbiter of political thought and not beauty, so my aesthetic sensibilities may be out of touch with the mainstream fashion world — and if you were looking for substantive thoughts on Assange’s whistleblowing project, they’re here.
It’s fair to say that Assange’s hair, despite receiving noticeably low levels of maintenance, was a marvel in and of itself. It was perfectly translucent to the point of appearing artificial, a quality that even aided him in his quest for transparency. (In a report for SBS Dateline in Australia, an event promoter calls him a “pure angel,” to which Assange fusses, “oh, it’s just the hair”). While its length was sometimes bothersome, the cut he sported when we last saw him on American TV was very becoming, albeit doing nothing to take away from its conspicuous nature.
So what to make of this new look? At first glance, there are hints of Simon Le Bon circa 2003 in it — a splash of highlights in a deliberately messy looking cut. Except it’s not deliberately messy looking, and those aren’t highlights. It doesn’t quite look like a “cut” because it doesn’t seem whoever did it used scissors. Instead, it looks like a “gnaw” — like a rabid mammal used his head as a chew toy one night and then Paul the Octopus showed up and splashed ink all over the remainders of his hair. It would have been tragic on anyone else; on someone naturally gifted with a hair color straight out of Greek mythology, it’s worth lighting a candle in memoriam.
What possible conspiracy theory could sufficiently explain away this horrible life choice? Well, it does achieve two things that are highly important for the reason Assange is famous in the first place: it makes Assange significantly more difficult to spot in a crowd, and it warms his complexion to the point of making him appear almost human. The former is obviously beneficial to a person who insists the Pentagon want to put him in Gitmo. The latter helps define his image as more of a justice-seeking Everyman than a nefarious Bond villain. And, let’s face it, as bad as this new look is– and as much as we’ll lament it– it’s not the worst we’ve seen on our computer buddy. Just check out the grunge look he was sporting with his (naturally light brown) hair in 1991:
It seems the new and tragically unimproved Assange is here to stay — at least until he feels the CIA has too good of a feel for what he looks like again. In the meantime, we’ll have to console ourselves with what the fans have constructed (namely, this hilariously objectifying Tumblr feed).