1861 – 1913 may have been the greatest run of presidents in the history of the United States of America.
Not because of policy.
Or the economy.
Or overall leadership.
This was the greatest era of presidential aesthetic.
From 1861 – 1913, all but two presidents (
losers) sported either a beard or a moustache for their tenure in office — an era known to many as the Facial Hair Revolution.
It’s a legitimate fact that no other era of presidents in our country’s history has been as respected by the American people, based solely on looks.
Well there’s a science behind it.
Vast research has been done on human psychology when it comes to facial hair and what it symbolizes and this is what was found (and why it’s important for a president):
- A Symbol of Power: In other societies, great leaders are often identified by their impressive beards. The president must project strength, and people worldwide equate facial hair with a force to be reckoned with. And if you have especially cool facial hair, it shows that you can make bold decision and believe in your instincts.
- A Symbol of Commitment: Growing a beard requires self-restraint and patience. It’s not easy. You have to commit to the game, just like the president has to commit to being the leader of the free world.
- A Symbol of Wealth and Status: The president can’t just be some joe-schmo. People need to know this guy is important just by looking at him when he walks in a room. And everyone knows a successful guy with great facial hair.
- A Symbol of Masculinity: Americans don’t want a boy in office. They want a man… or possibly someday a woman. But up until this point they’ve wanted a man, and there’s no better indication of that then a bushel of hair growing out of your chin and lip.
- A Symbol of Maturity: The president needs to have been around the block a few times. He needs to be wise and not make rash decision. When you see someone with a strong beard or moustache, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Dependability.
- A Symbol of Confidence: When you step out with a well-groomed face, people know you mean business. You’re not bringing any weak ass shit to them – you’re making it clear you’re the boss. And the president is America’s boss.
- A Symbol of Identity: Your facial hair represents your personal style. It’s your flair. How many presidents have we had that looked like just another white guy? Too many. A beard or moustache can give you personality — makes people feel something about you. And it obviously helps with the ladies too.
- A Symbol of Health: Healthier people grow better beards. That’s a fact. But not only that, studies show that beards can help reduce chances of developing skin cancer. Not only does a president with facial hair care about the well-being of the American people — he cares about the well-being of himself.
We can go on and on — but it’s abundantly clear why facial hair is so important for a president.
So who were the men that acknowledged this fact and lead one of the greatest movements in American history?
These two weren’t apart of the Facial Revolution per se, but they certainly paved the way for what was to come so they deserve some acknowledgement.
Nowadays, you see someone rocking the heavy sideburns look and you think: weirdo.
But in the early 1800s this look was bitchin’.
John Q deserves a lot of credit here as the first bearded president. No one before him was brave enough to bare their manhood on their faces for all to see. But he did, and that takes guts.
Van Buren totally copped his style a bit, but paired with the mad scientist hairdo — he made it his own look.
True trailblazers. Impressive stuff from these guys.
Look there’s a lot of things Lincoln did during his presidency that he deserves credit for and puts him in the running for greatest president ever — and chief among those is the absolute stamp he put on the facial hair game.
Nowadays you see any one walking down the street with a dark strip of hair hugging their jaw from ear to ear — where does your mind go?
He is forever synonymous with this style of facial hair, something only a select few get the honor of (looking at you Fu Man Chu).
Ever heard of the penny? He literally COINED the chinstrap look.
Not only did Honest Abe bring back facial hair to the oval office — he did it in a BIG way.
And his success as a bearded president set the tone that others followed.
THE BEARDED BEAUTIES
To me this was the golden era.
3 straight presidents with absolute forests on their face (and Harrison bringing it back for a brief moment).
Just absolute bears.
Grant kicks it off. Commanding general for the Union Army during the Civil War. Brings the victory home for the good guys (suck it, Confederacy).
He’s battle-hardened. He’s gruff. He’s not someone to be fucked with.
Great president? Eh. Great presidential look? You bet your ass.
We then roll right into Rutherford *OH BEHAVE* B. Hayes.
Strongest beard of the bunch, paired with a very modern haircut.
Weak on his enforcement of equal rights (loses some major points on that).
Honestly he’s a pretty forgettable president — besides the fact that he had a fantastic beard and is the only person in existence to ever be name ‘Rutherford’.
Closing out the group is Garfield and Harrison.
Did you know Garfield the Cat was named after James Garfield and his famous ‘whiskers‘? (don’t fact check me on this)
And Harrison… I mean come on. It’s literally in his name.
These 4 distinguished themselves from every other president by being the manliest-looking to ever lead our nation.
THE DAPPER DANS
We now come to the facial hair with a little bit more finesse: the moustache.
There’s no denying that beards are a bit more dominant of a look, but moustaches carry their own power.
They can turn a man into a gentleman.
And a gentleman into a roughrider.
Cleveland and Taft both clock in as the heaviest presidents to ever sit atop the star-spangled throne — 260lb. and 340lb. respectively (and respectfully).
But they weren’t just fat guys.
They were sophisticated fat guys (again, respectfully).
The moustaches added another element that distinguished them, while also distracting from the fact that they were absolute units.
In show business, we call that the ‘magician’s assistant’ — your mind follows the eye-candy while the real magic happens elsewhere.
Cleveland’s look was a bit more tame, going for a classic moustache — a look that people respected and missed so much that after he left the presidency the first time they voted him back in 4 years later.
Taft on the other hand went all out with the curling handlebar-look.
People like to rip on him for the bathtub stuff, but honestly he is the only person to serve as both the President of the United States and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
And I like to think he rode his moustache to both positions.
Rounding out the Dapper Dans is someone who needs no introduction.
Teddy Roosevelt separates himself in the category in one major way: his look gave off bad-assery and sex appeal.
Not a whole lot of moustachioed men have accomplished this feat — Tom Selleck and Burt Reynolds are two, but Teddy was the first to do it.
He hunted lions, he battled in wars, he got into bar fights.
And he carried a big stick.
Bully! Truly these men were the most debonair of presidents.
To finish us off, we have the most preposterous look of the group: a sideburn-to-moustache, muttonchop piece.
Really can’t tell you what the fuck is going on here… but honestly I feel like that means you just have to respect it (takes balls to go this bold).
Arthur campaigned for the presidency with this look, and people bought in — there’s something to be said for that.
For 50 years in this country, facial hair flourished for our leaders… and then it was gone.
And it’s never been the same since.
What could have been…
Would a bearded Tricky Dick Nixon have enough confidence in his re-election campaign that he’d never order the Watergate break-in?
Would John F. Kennedy have been even hotter with facial hair?
Would Barack Obama with a fresh line-up become so cool that he’d win over Republicans?
Would Donald Trump have been even more dastardly with a moustache?
And would Biden be more respected as a silver fox?
We’ll never know.
But I dream of a future in America where we once again can have a President that grows our economy, just as well as he grows a beard.