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Yo, Matthew:

Since 1978 I've been parting my hair in the center. I'm sensing this may be a bit passe in 2003. What style of hair part is currently most politically correct: center, left, or right? What percentage of the male population currently parts their hair in each of the three styles? What drives the selection of hair part in the male population? Father? Barber? Cowlick? Is there any correlation between hair part and political party affiliation? Is there a dominant hair part of past U.S. presidents or current Fortune 100 CEOs?

-- Hair Challenged in San Diego

Center part passe? Puh-leez. Cher. David Duke. Michael Jackson. Morticia Addams. Steven Tyler. Jerry Springer. Ken Burns. Willie Nelson. Bart Simpson (when Marge combs his hair). No center-part presidents since Taft, though. On the average dome, scalp hair grows in patterns defined by the angle of the hair follicles. On the crown they point straight up; at the nape, they point down. On the left and right sides they point back around the skull, but the left-side pattern ends just behind your left ear, while the right-siders continue around your bean to meet them. Cowlicks are common at the point where the crown and left- and right-side patterns meet. In roughly three-quarters of the population, a cowlick directs hair growth clockwise and causes hair to tend to part naturally on the left. The cosmetology industry is based on the idea that we can strongarm our hair to do weird, unnatural things, so the left part isn't law, just what you'll find most often. Left-parted hair is also easier for right-handers to style.

We figured this would take care of any notions of hair part as the road to success, and we were doing okay until one of the elves discovered the John and Catherine Walter's (trademarked!) "Hair Part Theory" (truemirror.com). Some time in the 1970s, apparently, John Walter moved his hair part from right to left, and his life was transformed, though he seems reluctant to go into detail. With this revelation, the brother-sister team began to collect the names of right- and left-part politicians and other famous folks to prove their trademarked theory that your hair part is a subconscious signal to observers about which of your brain hemispheres is dominant. Right part on a man? For florists and poets. Left part? Captains of industry and invaders of small countries. Their favorite example is Christopher Reeve as Superman. In the movie, the crusader had a left part, Clark Kent a right part. Smells like science to me.

Only eight presidents had right parts, and they were ineffectual or corrupt: Reagan, Clinton, Carter, Harding, Andrew Johnson, Buchanan, Tyler, and Lincoln. Yes, Lincoln. Abe only got good after he switched his part to the left, say the Walters. Gore (right part) was fated to lose to Bush (left part). The Walters say you center-parters, no-parters, and bald people present a "balanced" or "neutral" image. Their web site has 17 pages of just the kind of data you asked for, Challenged, so dial them up and wallow in their insight.

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