With Michael Nutter all but sworn in to become our next mayor, normally pessimistic Philadelphians are talking of a new day, of real reform, of a refashioning about to take place in City Hall.

Me, I'm just excited about the dreadlocks.

Anyone who had checked out Lisa Nutter's glorious kinky strands already knew change was coming.

Not to make too much of something as inconsequential as a hairstyle, but let's face it: Dreadlocks - like the Afro in the '60s - make a political statement, intended or not.

The misperception was that if you wore locks - really as a rejection of the torturous straightening chemicals used on black hair - you were either a Mumia follower or a spliff smoker. Worse, they could even get you fired.

Now here we are, fresh off the primary, with a probable first lady of City Hall who sports eight-year-old locks down her back.

Seems the key to the family's success - and this campaign was a family affair - is being natural.

"My hair suits my personality. Not in a militant sense, but I'm just confident in who I am."

That's part of what Nutter and I talked about the day after her husband's victory. How appearances, whether her natural hairstyle or his nerdy persona, convey a certain, often inaccurate, impression.

It's what both of them experienced on the campaign trail. Though not always bad.

"I ran into two women who had dreadlocks who said, 'I'm voting for your husband because you have dreads,' " recalled Lisa, 42. "I said, 'Uh, you might want to look at his position papers first.' "

She has some strong credentials of her own: A Mount Airy-raised daughter of educators. A holder of a master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania who is chief executive officer of a nonprofit that steers high schoolers into careers and college. The mother of 12-year-old Olivia, these days the most famous TV personality in Philly and as fierce as her father - in Monopoly. ("They're horrible. They're both such capitalists.")

Nutter exudes a classic style, yet absolutely hates to shop. ("Lord & Taylor and Ann Taylor. Done and done.")

She's a woman comfortable enough in her own skin to introduce her husband lovingly as "my boo," a term of endearment from the 'hood, to thousands of supporters at his victory party.

"I felt like if I were in a roomful of friends, that's how I would describe him," she said. "Would I have done it in the White House? Probably not."

Her public affection was refreshing. Somehow, I can't see media-shy Naomi Street describing staid John so intimately. Or Judge Midge Rendell constantly hanging with her "road dawg," Ed. But Lisa Nutter wouldn't have it any other way.

"For us, it was the only way to be together over eight or nine months," she said. "If you don't have your family engaged in the biggest move of your life, that's not too cool."

It's easy to see why Michael pursued her so relentlessly - kind of like a man running for office - back in the day.

She is girlfriend-warm, with welcoming eyes and features that resemble the Mona Lisa. And she can switch seamlessly between Mix Master Mike and Policy Maker Mike. She loves both the same.

Most of all, she admires that he stands strong in what he believes, no matter how much heat comes his way.

Even with his controversial "stop-and-frisk" proposal, which would allow police to stop and search those suspected of carrying illegal weapons in high-crime neighborhoods, "he didn't back down," she said. "He didn't tell white people one thing and black people something else. . . . He treated every voter like they could think."

Like Barack Obama, her husband represents a new-school black politician, one who rejects racial-identity politics and sticks to universal issues, reaching out to all voters while sacrificing no one.

Speaking of Obama, I had to ask: Just how did Nutter feel about the accusations of her husband's not being black enough?

"That whole attitude distresses me," she said. "Here's a guy who grows up in West Philadelphia, from a working-class family, who gets a scholarship to a prep school, works his way through Penn, and suddenly he's not black enough? There used to be a time when we were proud of that.

"I told Michael, 'If you don't do anything else, can you make being smart cool again?' "