The Greatest Power Mustaches

New York Gov. David Paterson shaved his beard for a cleaner look. From Adolf’s fascist 'stache to TR’s walrus, The Daily Beast recalls the greatest mustaches in political history.

AP Photo

AP Photo

Joseph Stalin

"Stalin is known the world over for his mustache, but not for his wisdom,” Josip Tito, the Yugoslavian leader and Stalin’s onetime pupil, told Time magazine in 1951. Today, Stalin’s legacies are many: gulag, five-year plans, and one sweet 'stache.

AP Photo

Saddam Hussein

The deposed Iraqi leader who sported a thick, black mustache once lorded over a society that prized the mustache. According to a 2002 Newsday article, Saddam’s chosen style dated back centuries to the time when the Ottoman Empire ruled what's now Iraq. Wrote Matthew McAllest: “In those days, as now, it was considered manly to have a large mustache.” There is even an old Iraqi saying, “This is a very strong man—an eagle could land on his mustache.”

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Teddy Roosevelt

If Teddy Roosevelt’s pince-nez glasses hinted at a bit of lightness, his thick mustache was all glower and heaviness. The 26th president, with his hunting trips and western ranch, exuded manliness. TR’s facial hair only helped further that image.

Bjoernelgstrand/Reportagebild / AP Photo

Lech Walesa

For the Polish Solidarity leader and president, the mustache became something of a signature. Writing in Slate, Anne Applebaum placed its appeal on par with the Dalai Lama’s robes—both manifestations of charisma and sources of wonder. World leaders want to get their picture taken with Walesa, Applebaum wrote. Why? “Because Walesa is an electrician, because he wears a trademark mustache, because he is given to earthy sayings and mixed metaphors. And because when he leaves the room…something in the atmosphere, something indefinable, goes flat.”

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Adolf Hitler

The Nazi leader has the rare honor of taking a style of facial hair and making it virtually unsportable for any future man—at least anyone who doesn’t want to be mistaken for a genocidal megalomaniac. In 2007, author Rich Cohen grew a toothbrush mustache for Vanity Fair, calling it “the most powerful configuration of facial hair the world has ever known. It overpowers whoever touches it.” The recent Obama-Hitler-mustache contretemps is a clear illustration of that.

Susan Walsh / AP Photo

Henry Waxman

They don’t call Rep. Henry Waxman the Mustache of Justice for nothing. Waxman has been serving California’s 30th district in Congress for 35 years. The bend in his mustache is a pleasant echo of his eyebrows and bald pate. And Waxman himself seems to have taken to the nickname. He told The New York Times last year, “I still have my mustache, and I still believe in fighting for justice.”

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Francisco Franco

Seriously, what’s the deal with dictators and facial hair? Generalissimo Francisco Franco (who is still dead) ruled Spain with an iron fist and hairy lip for decades.

AP Photo

William Howard Taft

The American election of 1912 may have been the only to see two major mustachioed candidates—Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft—face off. Unfortunately, both lost—to the clean-shaven Woodrow Wilson. Taft wore a walrus and a no mustache man has worked in the Oval Office since.

Themba Hadebe / AP Photo

Robert Mugabe

It takes a brave leader to try to revive the Hitler 'stache. Stephen Talbot, an editor for Frontline who has interviewed the president of Zimbabwe on multiple occasions said Robert Mugabe’s toothbrush mustache, as it is known, is something that “everyone notices but rarely mentions…That small, distinctive streak of dark hair just under his nose is Hitleresque. …I never asked, but I can't help thinking: Is Mugabe being deliberately provocative? Or does his style of facial hair have no political symbolism whatsoever?”

David Guttenfelder / AP Photo

John Bolton

George W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations is equally known for his friskiness and bushy, snow white facial feature. When CNN profiled Bolton back in 2005, they titled their segment, “ Behind the Mustache.” Indeed, Bolton’s facial hair even caught the attention of Hezbollah. This year, a video leaked from an address given by Hassan Nasrallah, a leader of the Lebanese paramilitary group, saying that Bolton “looks somewhat odd, especially his mustache…reminds me of a cartoon.”

Kaiser Wilhelm II

What became known as the Handlebar in the United States, was known as “The Kaiser” throughout Europe, named for Kaiser Wilhelm II who was the German emperor and King of Prussia. Wilhelm’s mustache defied gravity. And getting hair to perform such feats was hard work. In 1956, one correspondent wrote to Time describing his effort to emulate the style: “Each and every night at bedtime, one soaked the mustache with a dressing (which hardened when dry), then applied the Schnurrbart binder made of netlike material, shaped to go under the nose and extend well toward the ears, held flat and tight by elastic bands behind the ears. After applying, each side was lifted in turn, and the wet mustache combed into the flat spread-eagle shape [see cut] which was the reward all next day for the rather tortuous all-night care not to misplace the binder.”

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Chester A. Arthur

Chester Arthur assumed the nation’s highest office in September 1881 after President James Garfield was assassinated. His facial hair was a chinstrap that seemed to have been yanked up his face, a wonderful pair of mutton chops held together by a very hairy upper lip. His presidency began a three-decade reign of facial hair in the United States presidency, which included Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Taft, all mustache men, and the bearded Benjamin Harrison.