Politics

01.22.13

Will We Ever Have a Hirsute President Again?

Some friends and I were discussing whether we'll ever again have a president with a moustache or beard . We were divagating over this because as it happens 2013 marks the 100-year anniversary of the last facially enriched president, who left office that year. In came Woodrow Wilson, and ever since, we've had not a single moustache, of understanding or otherwise, in the Oval Office. Hardly even at the top of a ticket.

Why? Any theories out there? It could just be a coincidence of course. To begin with, not that many American males wear facial hair. Hard to get a handle on this, but here's one article reporting that 10 to 20 percent of men grow the facial grass. So maybe it's just that.

On the other hand, I think of senators, members of the House, governors...even among this group, almost nothing but razor-faces. Why? There must be something shifty looking about moustaches. It is true that villains often have moustaches, the very phrase "moustachioed villain" having entered the lexicon some years ago, with regard to...uh, Snidely Whiplash, or someone. (Actually, probably with the silent-film baddies on whom Whiplash was based; by the way, what a great name, Snidely Whiplash!)

As for beards, I suppose they must represent either slovinliness or some anti-establish bent. As luck would have it just last night I was watching the 1969 Dick van Dyke vehicle "Some Kind of Nut" on TCM last night, which is about a bank clerk who gets fired because he grows a beard. The hippies take up his cause and he sort of becomes one. Well, I'm not sure what happened. The movie--directed, incidentally, by Garson Kanin--wasn't very good and I turned it off.

Yes, that was 40 whatever years ago, but I'm not sure the beard's image has changed all that much. The exception is that really smart Jews can get away with it. Bernanke, Krugman. Somehow a beard is different if you're Jewish. I suppose there are good historical and cultural reasons for that.

Okay then, here's a little quiz for you:

1. Who was that president who left office in 1913?

2. Since then, two party standard bearers, both of them losers, have worn facial hair. Name them. one is easy, and one really hard, which even I didn't get.

3. Lincoln was the first president with facial hair. From him until this person who left in 1913, every president except two had either a beard or a moustache. Name those two.

And here are your answers. I'm sorry I don't have a cleverer way to do this. 1. William Howard Taft; 2, Thomas Dewey (1944 and 48, moustache) and Charles Evans Hughes (1916, beard). 3, Andrew Johnson and Wm McKinley.