The Surprising Habit Every President Since 1913 Had in Common
It's not what you would except.
Ken Wolter/ShutterstockAmerican presidents tend to have a lot in common with each other. On average, they’re more extroverted and disagreeable than the rest of us, as well as less neurotic and, interestingly, less straightforward.
So it’s no surprise that when it comes to physical appearance, they’re fairly cookie cutter too. And when you narrow that down to facial hair? Well, the verdict is in—no matter how popular the style is outside the oval office, the president’s face will, more likely than not, be free of scruff.
In fact, no president has sported facial hair in more than a century, when William Howard Taft—and his handlebar mustache—left office in 1913.
The clean-shaven look for American leaders dates back to the country’s early days. George Washington and the Founding Fathers all had smooth faces, and it wasn’t until 1825 that John Quincy Adams—who had long sideburns—introduced facial hair to the office.
Unfortunately, the whiskered trend didn’t stick until Abraham Lincoln revitalized it during his presidency, starting in 1861. From there, it was mustache mania: Of the 12 presidents in office between Lincoln and Taft, all but two wore either a beard or mustache.
But after that decade’s long run, it was downhill for facial hair. “Most men at the turn of the century featured stylish beards or mustaches, but showing off a smooth face became a new trend once public health officials maintained that men could transmit dangerous infectious particles through the scruff of their facial hair,” noted PBS in a documentary on tuberculosis. “Ultimately, the clean-shaven look became a symbol of the new middle-class man during the period that Harper’s Weekly labeled ‘the revolt against the whisker.'”
Now, it’s well supported that in order to win an election, a candidate would be wise to shave his face. “In 500 campaigns I’ve almost never had a conversation with a candidate about whether or not to have facial hair,” Democratic media consultant John Rowley told Slate. “It’s almost like conventional wisdom about facial hair has already hit candidates before they even run.”
But are there any instances he might advise a candidate to grow facial hair? “Maybe when people have a lot of scars on their face from an accident,” Rowley said.
We won’t get our hopes up. In the meantime, these are the funniest facial hair styles ever caught on camera.