It seems silly that so many people "fear the beard," by why? Here is a brief history of politicians with beards.
It's been since William Howard Taft when the United States had its last President with facial hair other than sideburns. When will the next President with facial hair be elected?
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The current 18 Congressmen with mustaches:
John Conyers, Jr.
William Lacy Clay
Donald M. Payne, Jr.
Current Congressmen who have goatees: Ron Barber, Doug LaMalfa, Keith Ellison, Steven Horsford, Gregory Meeks, Morgan Griffith, Doc Hastings, and Marc Pocan.
Four Congressmen who have beards: Al Green, Tim Bishop, Alcee Hastings, and Don Young
Two Senators who have mustaches: Angus King and John Hoeven
There have been a total of 16 American Presidents who had some kind of facial hair while in office, but that includes sideburns. Does that really count as facial hair? Man, then I must be a facial hair freak. There have been 8 Presidents who had a moustache while in office, but only five- Lincoln, James Garfield, Ulysses Grant, Benjamin Harrison, and Rutherford Hayes- who had a full beard. Sorry Chester Arthur- you came close. From the 1860s through the 1890s, it seemed like if you didn’t have a beard you probably wouldn’t get elected to public office. Here’s a picture of the 43rd United States Congress, which met from 1873 to 1875. Look at all those beards!
Here’s a picture of the 1880 Republican National Convention. Look at all those beards! My goodness! Here’s a picture of the United States Senate today- hardly any beards. Well, I do get why the women don’t have them. That makes sense. According to my calculations, only 30 of the current 433 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have facial hair. These 18 Congressman sport a mustache, these 8 Congressman sport a goatee, and here are the only four people in both houses of Congress who have beards. Of the 100 members of the Senate, only two, just two Senators sport a mustache. These, ladies and gentleman, are true rebels.
Which brings me to the question: Why don’t politicians today grow beards? And why did beards have any sort of prestige during that short while in the 1800s?
Well, throughout history, growing a beard has gone in and out of fashion for various reasons. In the 1850s, however, beards dramatically came back into style after a long period of them not being so stylish. It began in Great Britain. One reason why beards became popular again was because they became linked with stereotypical Victorian images of masculinity and male courage. Between the late 1840s to mid 1860s, several British pamphlets and books warned of the dangers of shaving and advocated the growing of facial hair.
Some argued that shaving just took too much time. Others argued that shaving was too dangerous, and that most barbers simply could not be trusted. Back then, some people went to the barber every single day for a shave. I couldn’t imagine going to Great Clips every day, but I digress.
Some argued that shaving was unnatural and insulted God. They said if men had been created in God’s image, shaving therefore defiled this image. Others argued there were great health benefits from growing facial hair. They said a thick moustache would act as an extra filter of bad air as men breathed in through the nose- you know, like nose hair’s extra helper. They said a beard kept the neck warm, and that shaving would increase the risk of bronchitis, laryngitis, cancer, and even blindness. Even others argued that beards made men look like they had wisdom, confidence, and authority.
Looking at old pictures of Civil War soldiers, you probably notice a lot of beards. Well, steel for that was usually used for razors was instead needed for military supplies. Also, due to unclean shaving conditions near the battlefield, many men who did shave risked infection by doing so.
And then there’s Abe Lincoln. Based on my research, he likely influenced many fellow Republican politicians to grow beards like he did. Things just catch on.