The experts debate how the murder defendant's new look will play in court

By Mary Margaret and Frank Swertlow
Updated March 20, 2007 01:00 PM

When Phil Spector appeared at a Los Angeles courthouse Monday for the start of jury selection in his upcoming murder trial, he sported a dramatically different look.

The legendary producer, who has become nearly as famous for his wild, curly hair as for his signature “Wall of Sound” music style, had traded his unruly locks for a smooth blond bowl cut.

Why the makeover? Some experts offered their opinion.

“He’s projecting a younger, toned-down look,” beauty expert Scott Vincent Borba, who has worked with Eva Longoria and Kristen Bell, tells PEOPLE. “He’s always extreme, but he’s trying to be more approachable to the jury, judge and media. Honeycomb highlights project warmth.”

But the image overhaul could backfire, Borba says: “Such a dramatic change can send the wrong message. He’s a chameleon, which makes you wonder who he really is.”

Spector’s friend and former companion, entertainment journalist Anita Talbert, has a similar take. “Phil wants to look kinder and softer and gentler,” she tells PEOPLE, “but someone is giving him some bad advice. Maybe this idea was that if you look like the devil or you look like Dracula, change your hair color.”

Loyola Law School Professor Laurie Levinson says Spector’s unusual hairdos underscore his eccentric nature. “I just think he lives in his own world,” she tells PEOPLE. “This is his image. He likes to make a statement. It gives him and identity and he likes attention.”

But, she says, it could backfire with a jury. “When the jury first sees him, that are going to think, ‘Who is this guy? He is not like the rest of us.’ But whether it helps him or hurts him is another question.”

Prosecutors from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office would not comment on the case or Spector’s new hairstyle. Members of his defense team also declined to comment on the new look.