Monday, March 19, 2012
NOT SO CLOSE SHAVES IN U.S. PRESIDENTIAL HISTORY
RAZOR WIT—Today marks a rather important personal event in that it is the fifth anniversary of the demise of my moustache, a constant companion of mine for more than 30 years. I remember the angst involved leading up to my decision to part ways with the hairy upper lip. Hours were spent in front of the mirror debating pro and con. Now that I’m clean shaven facial hair seems rather silly. But that’s just me and it did get me thinking about beards and moustaches in general.
Male facial hair made a big impact during the Hippie years beginning in the middle 1960s, a fad inspired more by the Beatles than the moustache wax lobby. But the biggest years for facial hair in America began during the Civil War when soldiers and officers on both sides just didn’t have the time or inclination to shave every day.
To this day our facially “hairiest” President has to be Rutherford B. Hayes, who never once shaved during his tenure in the White House 1877-1881. Hayes was a civil war general and one heck of a president. If anyone reads a biography of Hayes, his four years were jammed with decisions and events that impact us today. [See notes at end of this blog.]
We’re all familiar with the story that a young girl mentioned to Abraham Lincoln that he’d look less pale and wan if he grew beard. Abe took the suggestion to heart and was the first Chief Executive to be inaugurated sporting a beard. Lincoln started a fad in the White House. Presidents from Lincoln to Taft all had facial hair. All Presidents before Lincoln were clean-shaven and so were all Presidents after Taft. From 1860 to 1913 it was facial hair’s finest hour when moustaches and muttonchops ruled the White House and the world.
But, it makes one wonder what Rutherford B. Hayes would have looked like under that tangle of beard?
Notes: For more on our 19th President Rutherford B. Hayes read the excellent Wikipedia bio. Also, our White House has a fascinating webpage devoted to biographies of all our Presidents and well worth a visit: http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/photogallery/the-presidents