Is Donald Trump’s Hair a $60,000 Weave? A Gawker Investigation [Updated]
Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has generated an unceasing torrent of press attention that some estimate to be worth roughly $2 billion. Yet the central mystery at the very core of his persona—his inscrutable hairdo—has somehow, impossibly, remained unsolved. Until, perhaps, now.
A tipster who claimed knowledge of Trump’s hair recently came to Gawker with a potential solution to the enigma: Trump’s hair is not his own, costs tens of thousands of dollars for installation and upkeep, and comes from a man as mysterious as Trump is bombastic.
This solution that Trump, our tipster says, sought for his hair woes is a little-known, patented hair restoration treatment called a “microcylinder intervention.” It’s only performed by one clinic that we know of—Ivari International—where our source once sought treatment, and where he says he learned of Trump’s apparent patronage. What’s more, Ivari’s New York location was inside Trump Tower—on a floor that’s now private and reserved for Donald Trump’s children’s offices.*
[There was a video here]
Gawker was unable to independently confirm Trump’s connection to Ivari; both Trump and Ivari did not respond to multiple and persistent requests for comment. [Update: 31 days after this post was published, Ivari’s attorney represented to Gawker that “Mr. Trump has never been a client of Ivari. Ivari has not treated his hair in any way, at any time,” adding that “Ivari was in practice for over 30 years in the United States, and remains in practice today in Paris, and has one of the finest reputations in the industry. [Although] a very small number of its thousands of clients have voiced a complaint...the vast majority of Ivari’s clients have been loyal for decades and are extremely satisfied by its services.”] But after extensive research into Ivari’s history, Ivari’s treatments, and the photographic record of Donald Trump’s hair, this is a potential answer—perhaps the first plausible one—to the riddle of Donald Trump’s hair.
Allow me to explain.
What we know about the hair
In a 2011 profile in Rolling Stone, Trump actually revealed the supposed secret behind the hair that’s mystified America for years:
OK, what I do is, wash it with Head and Shoulders. I don’t dry it, though. I let it dry by itself. It takes about an hour. Then I read papers and things.
...I then comb my hair. Yes, I do use a comb. ...Do I comb it forward? No, I don’t comb it forward. I actually don’t have a bad hairline. When you think about it, it’s not bad. I mean, I get a lot of credit for comb-overs. But it’s not really a comb-over. It’s sort of a little bit forward and back. I’ve combed it the same way for years. Same thing, every time.
Ignoring the fact that an hour seems like an excessive amount of time for Trump’s thin, relatively short strands to dry post-shower, this all sounds believable enough.
Still, it doesn’t fully explain the cotton candy hairspray labyrinth that has fascinated so many Americans. In the picture below, for instance, you’ll notice a sporadically arranged hairline that seems to be hanging on for dear life. And then there’s that flap.
How is that section of hair so thick compared to the hair around it? And where, exactly, does the hairline start?
And then there’s this.
How can one possibly comb natural, human hair so that it lies comfortably in such a shape? Hair that grows naturally from a head will not—cannot—form the web we see laid bare in the thinning section of scalp curtain above.
Adding to the question of the provenance of Trump’s hair is its motion, or lack thereof. Natural hair, even when heavily doused in product, does not move as if it exists apart from the scalp itself. And yet, that is precisely what we see with Trump’s candy-colored head rug. Notice how it flaps as one in the breeze.
Now take a look at what happened last August when Time interviewed Donald Trump as part of its Person of the Year lineup. Naturally, Time decided to present Trump with a bald eagle named Uncle Sam. But in an act of performance art that was, truthfully, a bit too on-the-nose for my tastes, the living symbol of American pride attacked the angry orange candidate. And as Uncle Sam’s wings flapped frantically, Trump’s hair piece migrated. It was ever so slight and ever so brief, but migrate it did. And in one impossibly solid piece.
[There was a video here]
Let’s see that one more time.
You’ll notice that as it’s being sideswiped by the powerful wing of Uncle Sam, Trump’s meticulously arranged pile of hair moves as though it were a single entity. Or, perhaps, as though it were woven together.
Which brings us to the patented microcylinder technique of Mr. Edward Ivari.
What we know about the method
An archived copy of Ivari International’s website shows that in 2000, when our tipster was told that Donald Trump used Ivari International’s non-surgical brand of hair treatment, Ivari only advertised two hair restoration options. Only one of those options was surgery free. So if Trump did indeed seek treatment here, and he picked the less-invasive, nonsurgical method, he was likely laying down tens of thousands of dollars for Ivari’s patented “microcylinder intervention.”
This meticulous procedure is undertaken according to the needs of each client. Hair can be thickened, short hair may be lengthened, and balding areas can be recovered. Through the use of Microcylinders, additional hair is added to your own hair recreating the natural look of your hair to its original and full-body shape.
...This extraordinary procedure has proven successful regardless of the lack of volume or degree of hairloss.
In other words, even with Trump’s presumably thinning hair, Ivari’s microcylinder attachments should offer both additional thickness and length, and make Trump more than capable of swirling and situating his artificially extended locks in whatever unholy position he sees fit.
According to a brochure sent by Ivari to its new patients:
The Microcylinder Technique is just one of the patented inventions available at Ivari centers. Through these tiny cylinders, additional strands of natural hair are added until the desired effect is reached (without surgery). The final result leaves you free to swim, shower, and brush as often as you wish without concern. The Ivari Techniques are suitable for both men and women regardless of hair loss or the amount of hair desired. Your privacy and confidentiality requirements are protected with all Ivari services and correspondence.
All that secrecy isn’t guaranteed for nothing—the treatment is wildly expensive. In 2007, the cost of the initial process for at least one patient came out to be $60,000, with maintenance estimates ranging from $300 to $3,000 per month. In exchange, though, Ivari promises that patients will get hair that is “perfectly identical to the person’s initial hair in terms of shade and texture; they mingle with your own hair and you quickly ‘forget them.’ ... No other indication: You can wash them as frequently as desired, brush them vigorously, and massage your scalp freely.”
In all its promotional materials, Ivari emphasizes the fact that its microcylinder attachments can take just as much as much tugging as any head of human-grown hair, something Donald Trump takes pains to point out is also true of his mop.
[There was a video here]
While Ivari International seems to have very nearly disappeared from U.S. soil (more on that later), its patents still exist on both Google and the European Patent Register.
As the patents were originally filed in France, they are full of questionable translations and are otherwise difficult to parse. But thanks to a lawsuit filed against Ivari by Alicia Roach in 2001, we have a decent breakdown of what a microcylinder treatment actually entails:
The intervention involves the use of skeins of natural donor hair. Each skein consists of a line of hairs attached to a thread about one inch in length. The threads are then attached end-to-end in concentric circles over the client’s head. The circles of thread are then anchored to each other by separate threads, which radiate from the center so that the underside of the resulting hairpiece resembles a spider’s web. The client’s natural hair is attached to the hairpiece by forty to sixty separate threads. Each of those threads is attached at one end to the web and at the other end to a tiny metal clamp around a few strands of natural hair at the scalp. Every few weeks, as the natural hair grows out from the scalp, the hairpiece loosens on the head. This places increased tension on the natural hair to which the microcylinders are attached and can cause hair breakage. A maintenance procedure (maintenance) is necessary wherein the clamps must be removed and replaced closer to the scalp. A maintenance tightens the hairpiece on the client’s head.
Maintenance apparently has to be done every six to eight weeks. And while Ivari claims that its methods produce hair indistinguishable from that which you’ve grown naturally, the ruling court was notably less kind.
The judge’s decision states, “Ivari, Inc. is in the business of installing exorbitantly-priced hairpieces on the heads of people with thinning hair. These hairpieces are the functional equivalent of wigs and might be expected to look and feel like wigs after attachment.”
While images of the actual process of Ivari’s microcylinder treatment remain elusive, the Ivari website is more than happy to share a few before and after photos.
Each man’s head is unquestionably full. Though just like a certain confoundingly coiffed candidate for president, where exactly all that hair is coming from (not to mention the direction in which it grows) is far more difficult to pin down.
While we couldn’t track down any visuals on the microcylinder process itself, this nonsurgical “micro link” method from a hair restoration clinic in Canada appears to be fairly similar:
Most notably, what’s going on at the near-root level bears a striking resemblance to what seems to be happening beneath Donald Trump’s hair, as demonstrated by its reaction to an unexpected gust of wind.
As you can see, in this microcylinder stand-in, the distressingly long growth folds back to hide the wispy scalp hairs from which it spurts:
Just as Trump’s own distended follicles apparently belie a nearly barren scalp below:
At the very least, microcylinders would certainly explain how a 69-year-old man could grow hair with the capacity to effectively wrap itself around the circumference of his head several times over. Without having direct access to Donald Trump’s head, of course, it’s difficult to say for sure exactly how these attachments would function. Are they simply a web of additional hair as described in the Roach lawsuit? Do the microcylinders include what the Ivari brochure dubs “microextensions,” ensuring extraordinary length?
Or is it a combination of both? Perhaps some questions are better left unanswered.
What we know about Edward Ivari
If Edward Ivari really is the man behind Donald Trump’s mane, we couldn’t have invented a better match.
According to at least one lawsuit filed against Ivari, he often depicts himself as a doctor and a pioneer in the field of hair restoration, though he has no actual medical degree. What’s more, none of the hair restoration specialists Gawker spoke with were familiar with either him or his work.
But just because Ivari isn’t well-known among the professionals in the field doesn’t mean he’s totally off-the-grid, at least where New York’s wealthy socialites are concerned. In 1999, the New York Post ran an article about plastic surgery-loving Jocelyn Wildenstein’s then-boyfriend, Ken Godt, who had been “flying to Los Angeles, California, via first class every six weeks to have his hair woven at Ivari International.” According to the Post, the initial procedure had cost him $40,000 while “the adjustments cost $3,000 every six weeks.”
Ivari International is just one of the many names under which Edward Ivari (otherwise known as Mohammad Ali Ivari) has conducted business, according to the lawsuit filed against Ivari by Dennis Graff. There’s Ivari International Centers, Inc. (formerly located in Los Angeles) as well as Ivari International, Inc. (formerly located in New York City). The company has also allegedly existed as Ivari, Ivari International Capillaire, Ivari Centre International Capillaire, and the Ivari Treatment Center.
Ivari International Centers was incorporated in California in 1989, but according to the California Secretary of State, its business license was suspended in October of 2015 for failure to meet tax requirements. This was the fourth time that Ivari has had its license suspended in California for tax-related reasons.
Still, the address for the Los Angeles location remains on the Ivari website (which doesn’t seem to have been updated since 2005). The provided phone number is dead. Should you decide to stop by for a visit, instead of this...
...you’ll find this.
The New York center, though, is where things get interesting as far as Donald Trump is concerned. Currently, the Ivari website lists only an unresponsive email address under the contact info for its New York location, along with the message that it’s “in the process of changing the address.”
Before this most recent message appeared, though, an archived copy of the website from April of 1997 shows that Ivari had previously listed itself as located on the 25th floor of none other than Trump Tower.
Now, how exactly would an “available private entrance for our prominent clients” work with an office on the 25th floor of a high rise? You’d likely need to have access to whatever it was that took up space on either side of your business’s walls. As luck would have it, Donald Trump’s office was located directly above, on the 26th floor.*
According to our tipster’s theory, Donald Trump first started seeking treatment at Ivari at some point prior to the year 2000. However, Ivari International had advertised its services in New York Magazine periodically between 1995 and 1997, as seen below. So Donald Trump could have easily caught wind of the treatment then.
It wasn’t until November in 2005 that Ivari stopped listing the New York location as being on the 25th floor of Trump Tower. It has claimed to be “in the process of changing the address” ever since.
Did Ivari simply shutter the doors to its New York office not long after removing the address from its website? According to records from the New York Department of State, Ivari didn’t become inactive as a business (in all its forms) until 2010. (This information is voluntarily reported and isn’t definitive evidence that a business was “active” up until the point it was listed as dissolved; nor does it necessarily mean that Ivari has ceased doing business in New York since 2010.)
We were unable to try to track down Ivari’s former New York location because, as someone with knowledge of Trump Tower’s inner workings explained, since at least 2011 it’s been impossible to get to the 25th floor without a security escort. Nothing, we are told, remains there but the Trump family business.
If Dennis Graff’s 2009 lawsuit is to be believed, though, Edward Ivari might have good reason for wanting to stay out of sight. The lawsuit claims that “upon information and belief, Mohammad Ivari is one of several aliases used by Edward Ivari in the furtherance of various highly suspicious and illegal operations in the United States, the Middle East, and elsewhere.”
Whether there’s any credence to these claims remains unknown, as Graff ultimately chose to settle out of court and did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Judging by Ivari’s own website, the company’s activities do seem to fall outside of the norm. How many high-end hair restoration clinics also have a department for financing “personal or professional projects” on the side?
Ivari doesn’t just dole out loans, he apparently solicits them, too—or at least, Edward Ivari allegedly did so while treating Dennis Graff. According to Graff’s initial complaint (the majority of which Ivari denied), in the middle of the 10-to-12 hour process of installing the hair replacement system, Ivari asked Graff “if he would loan him $250,000 at 6% interest for his various ‘interests.’” Graff declined to loan the man he barely knew a quarter of a million dollars, so Ivari then “advised Graff he ‘would be unable to complete his work’ and would complete only the top part.” This left Graff with a “grossly uneven product covering the top of his head only.”
Furthermore, Graff claims that Ivari was suddenly and mysteriously booked solid, meaning that he was stuck with the mess on his head for the two months Ivari claimed it would take to squeeze him in. When the appointment to finish Graff’s treatment finally did roll around, Ivari allegedly hit him up for money again—this time for $500,000 at an 18 percent interest rate.
When Graff declined to loan Ivari the money yet again, Ivari supposedly said he was suddenly unable to finish the treatment that day. He would, however, be happy to see Graff at his next available appointment date—one whole month from then. That’s when things really started to get fun. From Graff’s initial complaint:
In July of 2007, Graff appeared for his appointment at Ivari, Inc. to have the hair replacement done. Edward Ivari advised Graff he lost millions of dollars in a Saudi Arabia deal, had actually been held in prison there for a year, and desperately needed to borrow $1,000,000 at 18% to be repaid in 6 months. When Graff declined to loan the money to him, Edward Ivari advised him he could not complete the work until September 2007.
A few weeks later, an employee at Ivari called Graff, according to court documents, and told him he needed to pay $12,000 immediately or else Ivari would be unable to ever complete the treatment at all (Graff had already paid the previously agreed upon $60,000 in full). Then, in August, Graff had several hair replacement specialists check out Ivari’s partially finished work. The experts described Ivari’s product as “substandard, a dead giveaway it was a hairpiece, not finished, and lacking in good quality.” By October, “the hair replacement system completely fell apart and needed to be removed as it hung loosely on Graff’s head.”
According to the complaint, from the date of his initial appointment to October when he finally had it removed, Graff’s friends described the hairpiece as a “ground hog,” a “cheap piece of carpet,” and “an unmade bed.”
Finally, on October 8, 2007, Graff allegedly went back to Ivari and met with Edward Ivari’s wife, Amy, who “was shocked at [the hair replacement system’s] quality.” She redid the treatment herself in the hope of avoiding any subsequent lawsuit.
It didn’t work. According to court documents, the system fell further into disarray, and Ivari continued to refuse to fix the hairpiece properly until finally, in May of 2009, Ivari allegedly told Graff that Graff would have to sue them to get what he wanted. In July, Graff did just that. In April of 2010, Graff and Ivari settled the case out of court.
According to filings from the French Trade Registry, Ivari’s Paris office—its sole remaining public location—was, until March of this year, in the building pictured below at 26 Place Vendome. It has since moved to a new spot that appears to be Ivari’s home address.
The Paris treatment center’s web site, however, continues to list as its place of business 26 Place Vendome, which is where a Gawker stringer recently went to make an appointment for a consultation. She found herself unable to enter the building, so our correspondent called the Paris phone number, only to be told that the next available consultation wasn’t for another ten days. She was never told about the apparent change in location.
Let’s say, hypothetically
Here’s a fun little thought exercise. Let us pretend for a minute that perhaps Ivari was never really “in the process of changing the address” in New York. That would mean that, for at least the five additional years the business continued to function in New York state (if not longer), Ivari International sat squarely in the direct vicinity of Donald Trump’s office.
Considering the lack of advertising and refusal to share its actual location, new clients would have surely been rare, if not nonexistent. This would mean, then, that Ivari would need some steady source of income from some sort of mega-client. Some mega-client that, perhaps, has built an identity around his objectively terrible hair choices but refuses to concede that his hair is anything but his own. In which case, this bombastic, mega-client would of course demand the utmost privacy.
Wouldn’t it be convenient, then, if Ivari’s New York office was right below its number one client’s own office?* And wouldn’t having other clients become unnecessary if this one hyper-wealthy regular required constant attention?
Might this secret mega-client singlehandedly sustaining Ivari International’s New York office with constant treatments be none other than presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump himself?
It seems possible. But this is merely a thought exercise; like Donald Trump wondering aloud what Ted Cruz’s father was doing with John F. Kennedy’s assassin, I’m just asking questions.
*Editor’s note: This post has been corrected to reflect the fact that during the time when Ivari International was located on the 25th floor of Trump Tower, Donald Trump’s personal office was one floor above, on the 26th.
Summary video by Mandy Mandelstein, supercut video by Nicholas Stango.