'Mafioso boss' or 'British barrister'? MPs debate what's going on with Simon Bridges' long hair

National MP Simon Bridges says he's "enjoying not working quite as hard" as when he led the party, but that doesn't appear to have freed up enough time for a haircut.

Before being toppled almost a year ago, Bridges rocked a short and tidy slicked-back hairdo. But appearing on The AM Show on Friday, his fringe - apparently sans product - was long enough to flop across his forehead down to his ears.

Just before the cameras started rolling, David Parker said the MP for Tauranga looked like an "Italian playboy", which host Duncan Garner later put to Bridges in the interview.

"It's either that or a mafioso boss, but he is looking rather handsome at the moment," the Labour MP added. 

Bridges in 2019 and Bridges in 2021.
Bridges in 2019 and Bridges in 2021. Photo credit: Getty/The AM Show

"Well, that's the sort of look I'm going for," Bridges joked. "I think sort of, British barrister? I don't know if you see that. I don't know if it's working or not. But as a backbencher, those haircuts are expensive."

Asked if a haircut would be a sign he's about to challenge Judith Collins for his old job, Bridges didn't immediately say no.

"There's so many things I could say. We've answered this many times. I am happy to be the MP for Tauranga. I'm enjoying not working quite as hard, but still doing lots of things in the electorate and out and about. Life is good." 

Early in 2020 Bridges had National as high as 46 percent in the polls, but his personal poll ratings struggled. After the party's numbers began to slide in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, he was rolled. Collins in October led National to their heaviest defeat in nearly 20 years. 

Bridges' hair has often been the target of derision and mockery. In 2020, then-New Zealand First MP Shane Jones said it looked like he'd been to a "shampoo bar", and a Stuff political columnist compared it to an "oil slick" that made him look like "a cross between an undertaker and a Mormon missionary".

But he gives as good as he gets. Last year Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's partner Clarke Gayford mentioned on Twitter he'd given her a home dyejob during the lockdown - prompting Bridges to boast he didn't need any when he made it to a barber once restrictions had been lifted.