Alongside a photo of a not-so-stylish haircut she’d given her husband, Emily Maitlis revealed on Twitter last week that she used to work in a hairdressing salon. While her husband’s hairdo can be explained away by the fact that “she never learned to use clippers”, the Newsnight presenter’s shiny, bouncy mane three weeks into lockdown, with DIY now the only option, suggests that she certainly picked up how to do an excellent blow-dry.
As grooming pages have filled with how-to hacks for eyebrows, root touch-ups and manicures, and celebrities and influencers post tips on social media, the pandemic has inspired a surprising number of beauty trends from buzzcuts and pink hair to nail art.
While many people experiment at home, a portion of the workforce must maintain high standards. As the public trusts trusted people to explain Covid-19 developments, TV news viewing has increased by two-fold. This trust is accompanied by expectations.
Amber Butchart, fashion historian, says that it is crucial to maintain normality in times of crisis. We expect newsreaders look professional and well-groomed – both for women and men – to maintain order. The suit is almost invisible to men. In 2014, Karl Stefanovic, an Australian TV anchor, wore the same blue suit for one year in order to see if anyone noticed. He was highlighting the sexism that his female colleagues experienced.
Cathy Newman, presenter on Channel 4 News, said that the public has not commented on her appearance since lockdown began. “I’ve received many lovely comments about the journalism. People often stop me on the street to tell me how thankful they are for the stories that we share every night.”
Newman’s camera-ready look is still down to the dedicated Channel 4 grooming team. “Lisa, our head makeup, created foundation, concealer, blusher, and every other brush for each presenter. It was so thoughtful. Lisa’s colleague Amelia even labeled every brush so that I wouldn’t use the foundation brush to apply eyeshadow.
She believes that presentation matters, no matter what the circumstance. “People watch Channel 4 News online and on TV in their millions, so it’s important that we do our best to look smart. We also have one hour of TV every night. It’s a big event and dressing up adds to the sense of occasion. It helps me get ready for the presentation from home, so I wear heels.”
It is still to be seen if the news reporting conventions will change during lockdown. Robert Peston, the ITV political editor has already established new rules for home broadcasts. He admits that he has always been a bit messy on camera. “I have convinced myself that no one cares if I shave. It is amazing that no one knows how long since my last shower.”
Peston is immune to the paranoia of video-conferencing. Peston is a happy to let the whole country in, despite most people cringing at having to reveal our homes to colleagues. “My partner Charlotte Edwardes is slightly annoyed that our dimmed light bulbs, piles and books, and dilapidated sofa were revealed.”
He will he use lockdown to try out some new beauty trends, such as a buzzcut and a pink dye job? “Definitely not. “At last, I have an excuse to rock the superannuated hippy style.”
Perhaps the news will be different if the lockdown lifts are successful.