Further to my question about the use of ‘MFF’ on New York Times article ( Jan.29 ) titled “As State of the Union Nears, Congress Plays Musical Chairs,” I have a question about the meaning of the phrase of ‘members of the Senate with seriously good hair’ in the following sentence:

Mary from Louisiana asked Olympia from Maine because they are BFFs, but had a backup in Bob from Tennessee in case she was rebuffed. Kirsten from New York went the Sadie Hawkins route and asked John from South Dakota, and thus the deal between two members of the Senate with seriously good hair was sealed.

I was intrigued by the phrase, ‘good hair,’ in the above sentence. So I checked Urbandictionary to find its real meaning and found the following definition:

A popular term in the African-American community, used to describe a black person's hair that closely resembles the hair of a typical white person (i.e. soft, manageable, long, as opposed to "nappy" or "bad" hair). The closer your hair is to a white person's, the "better" your hair is.

I was confused. On YouTube, both Sen. Marry L. Landriey and Olympia Snowe are clearly white, one with bland and another dark hair. Is Urbandictionary’s definition - 'used to describe a black person's hair' wrong? What does "Senators with seriously good hair” really mean? Is it a praise or does it involve sarcastic insinuation? Please teach me.

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    Just to let you know, Urban Dictionary is not necessarily a good source. I can't speak for this particular definition, but I'd be very wary of relying on anything it says if writing in a professional manner.
    – waiwai933
    Jan 23, 2011 at 22:28
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    I'm wary of anything on UB, period. For whatever purpose. But that goes for any other source too. Okay, more so for UB. ;-) Jan 23, 2011 at 22:36
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    This expression is unique to American English, I'll say that much. (We don't use it here in Britain.) Also, I second the distrust of Urban Dictionary!
    – Noldorin
    Jan 23, 2011 at 22:41
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    Same here. A better bet is the American Heritage Dictionary: dictionary.reference.com/help/ahd4.html
    – Jimi Oke
    Jan 23, 2011 at 23:34
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    waiwai and jae. O.K. Let's forget about Urbandictionary's definition which I understand can be simply contributions of laymen. Ignoring what Urbandictionary says, however, what is the intent of New York Times writer by saying in such particular way as 'the deal between two members of the Senate "with seriously good hair" was sealed? (I saw both women's hair and hair style on the Senate floor and interviws on youtube, but neither didn't look so seriously impresseve hair and hair style as compared with those of models of Unilever hair rinse commercials for me personally). That's I want to know. Jan 24, 2011 at 0:04

2 Answers 2


"Good hair" is kind of a meme in American English. (I was going to say faux meme, but no one would forgive that pun.) TV announcers and politicians all strive to have good hair.

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Scott Adams' comic strip Dilbert calls this "executive hair" and this has entered the political vocabulary, at least. People with "good hair" seem to have it all over those who don't. Especially those who don't have any hair at all. Just ask Larry David (watch the whole clip).

The opposite of good hair is, of course, bad hair. Americans even speak of "having a bad hair day" when nothing seems to be going right with their appearance (or their day) in general.

  • Robusto. Thanks for clear answer accompanied with a pursuasive visual presentation. ITSUMO OSEWANINARIMASU. ARIGATOU GOZAIMASU. Jan 24, 2011 at 6:40

The whole article is sarcastic and borderline absurdist, comparing the functioning of a legislative body to a children's game of musical chairs, and then attributing childish attributes to the participants (such as being "BFFs", an abbreviation of the childish idea of "Best Friends Forever", and "going the Sadie Hawkins route", referring to a dance in which traditional roles are reversed and the girl/woman asks the boy/man).

In this case, the "good hair" comment is meant to highlight the lack of depth (in intellectuality or, perhaps, moral character) of the participants, as if having "good hair" were somehow an important characteristic for people in high leadership positions. In the context provided, the author may not have meant it as personal criticism directed toward the individuals, but just as an overall sarcastic comment on the proceedings.

In any case, "African Americanism" had nothing to do with the comment. It is true that the phrase "bad hair" (and presumably its opposite, "good hair") first gained currency among the African American community, but it has long since passed into general usage.

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