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A Man and His Flat Top

And now, we bring you the first in a semi-regular style series on the freshmen senators -- where they dine, where they shop and, of course, where they get their hair done.

Sen. Jon Tester is all about his flat top. The Montana Democrat used his hair as a tool in his successful campaign to oust Republican Conrad Burns. His buzz cut - the emblem of his down-home, populist style of politicking - was such a central element of his platform that he ran a television ad about it.

Jon Tester
Sen. Jon Tester

Tester takes meticulous care to keep his hair perfectly spiked and flat. He won't entrust that look to just any stylist, which is why he can't quite bring himself to brave the Senate barbershop just yet.

Instead, he tells us, he goes every two or three weeks to see Bill Graves, his barber of 15 years back home in Great Falls. You really get to know a lot about a guy from talking to his barber, which is why we gave Graves a call this morning.

Graves might be proud of Tester for making it all the way to the U.S. Senate, but he isn't impressed.

"He's just a common old ordinary farm boy from Montana," says Graves, who has had the same barbershop for 44 years. "He's just like every guy on the street. If there's two guys ahead of him, he waits his turn. We just b.s. and laugh and joke."

(Sen. Tester isn't Graves' only famous customer. The barber also has clipped the locks of football great Ryan Leaf. Leaf, the former quarterback for the San Diego Chargers, went to high school in Great Falls.)

When Tester was state senator, he would ride his motorcycle the 40 miles from his farm in Big Sandy to the barbershop. Now he drives, or has someone drive him. He pays the going rate of $8, according to Graves, who adds "and he gives me a tip usually."

It's hard to say whether Tester will become a trendsetter among Washington's well-coiffed luminaries. His spokesman, Matt McKenna, says, "There are certainly a few senators on the Hill with flat-top envy."

In Washington, Tester has found a favorite restaurant. He and his flattop like the Daily Grill, where he says "they got a lobster pad thai that you can kill for. It just about floundered me."

But if he had his druthers, Tester would order prime rib, hands down, any day of the week. It's his favorite meal. That does seem more the flat-top man than pad thai.

Although the senator may want to heed this bit of wisdom from his barber, who noted: "He wasn't quite as big as he is now when I met him. Politics has been good to him."

By Mary Ann Akers  |  March 2, 2007; 2:45 PM ET
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