It’s the third Monday of February, and that means it’s Presidents’ Day,1 which got us thinking here at Naked Armor about an American president’s shaving habits. After all, it has been a century since our presidents have sported facial hair. So, why don't presidents have beards or mustaches?
With over 100 years of having no bearded presidents,2 it’s a no-brainer to think that they get regular shaves. Who, then, is responsible for shaving them? How often does the president shave his facial hair? Does he have the Secret Service do it, or does he do it himself?
We looked into the history of presidential facial hair and found some interesting facts that will make you think about shaving and politics in a different way.
- Beards And Politics Throughout History
- Why Presidents Don’t Have Beards?
- The Presidential Barber
- Straight Razors Are Presidential
Beards And Politics Throughout History
Wikipedia has a list of American presidents with facial hair. But of course, we had to confirm it ourselves. As it turns out, according to Quartz,2 the majority of men who have held the office of the President of the United States have been clean-shaven, even our Founding Fathers.3
America's Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, and George Washington, having lived through the Enlightenment, did not have beards because having a clean-shaven face was the norm that greatly represented the openness of new ideas.4 Hostile notions towards facial hair were inspired by the French beard ban5 and Henry VIII's beard tax in the 1600s6. It was only in the late 1700s that everyone started to go soft on their perceptions of facial hair.
U.S. presidents only begin to depict facial hair's brief but powerful reign in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Every president, from Abraham Lincoln in 1860 until William Howard Taft, who left office in 1913, sported a substantial beard, mustache, or both. The only exceptions were Andrew Johnson and William McKinley.
Over the century, the difference between men and women has become more influential. Men started to look for ways to showcase their masculinity by growing mustaches and beards. But since 1913 and before 1860, no president has had a beard or mustache of any kind, and there were few bearded politicians. This is likely because people in the 18th century thought that beards were a sign of "maniacs, fanatics, and dissimulators"7 and because there were negative stereotypes about wearing facial hair.
Why Presidents Don’t Have Beards
Photos from: White House
Rebekka Herrick, an Oklahoma University Sociologist, and her colleagues probed into the idea of whether beards affect a politician’s chances of winning a seat in the government, especially presidential candidates and congressmen.8 They presented photos of the 110th Congress of 2007 and 2008’s male members to students asking if they were likely to vote for them.
Here’s what they noticed:
Women’s Suffrage And Beards
Interestingly, the same research pointed out that male politicians with facial hair fell out of favor with the American public when women gained voting rights and the double-edged safety razor became popular.
It could be due to women thinking of men with facial beards as sexist and less friendly to their issues and concerns.9 So they wouldn’t vote for any candidate wearing a beard as it can implicate heightened masculinity, which can, in turn, affect their stands on women’s rights.
The never-ending debate over whether it is hygienic to grow facial hair has also taken a toll on a candidate’s facial hair dilemma. Hence, subsequent concerns over hygiene and the bacteria associated with a full beard also contributed to its popularity decline.10
When gas masks were invented and used in combat during World War I, facial hair prevented gas masks from functioning correctly. So, that led to widespread shaving among soldiers. Unfortunately, even with the resurgence of the beard’s popularity today, it’s never been the same for those in Congress. According to recent estimates, most politicians still prefer a clean-shaven look, wherein fewer than five percent of the members of the US Congress have either beards or mustaches.11
But, if you are wondering, beards are not dirty—only if you are and if you don’t manage them well.
There’s A Presidential Hair Act
Well, not really. Over at Quora, somebody is pulling our leg. But it was fun reading about the so-called Presidential Haircut Act of 1974.12
We’re not sure if this is really true. Still, the Act prohibits the president from shaving his head bald unless 82.6% of his head is naturally bald. He also cannot have a hairstyle longer than 1.45 inches past a shirt collar or a middle parting. And finally, which made us think this was a joke, having any symbol other than the American flag or bald eagle shaved into the side of his head.
As an added caveat, the penalty for violating this act is a 67% reduction in the pension given to former presidents.
Beards Are For Hippies
An article in Slate blamed the beard’s exile from contemporary American politics on the rise of communists and hippies.13 The stereotype of a full-bearded anti-Vietnam war hippie and the popularity of Fidel Castro during those early years reinforced the idea that a beard-loving guy is an America-hating slacker.
This perception of full beards is still widespread today. There is a sparsity of modern politicians running for office who would risk alienating elderly voters by wearing a beard that brings to mind these stereotypes.
So, until a bearded president or candidate wins a high-profile election, beards won’t take hold in politics. Politicians are unabashed copycats and generally won’t try a new campaign strategy until it’s been proven to work. Not to mention, a presidential candidate feels like being clean-shaven is a usually safer bet over a beard, which carries a lot of trailblazing negative notions.
The Verdict: Are Presidents Not Allowed To Have Beards?
There is no legal prohibition against having facial hair in the United States. Quora's Presidential Hair Act is merely satire. Presidents of the United States can choose to have either a beard or a mustache, even if they haven't been elected yet. Ultimately, it all boils down to the impression they want to give voters and how much they want to conform to modern norms.
The Presidential Barber
Photo from: Wiki Commons
Back to our earlier question: do American presidents have their personal barber? After all, he must have regular presidential haircuts, right?
As it turns out, he has—at least, the presidency used to have one.
Milton Pitts was the White House barber for about 25 years.14 He was the official Republican barber for four administrations: Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Bush Senior.
Since the position requires a certain amount of trust, presidents tend to bring their trusted people to serve them. That’s why when Obama was in the White House, he brought along his long-time friend and barber of more than 15 years.15
Today though, the White House official barbershop is closed. The room which used to be the barbershop is now the office of the Homeland Security director.
Straight Razors Are Presidential
Straight razors are at the top of the razor hierarchy, and because of that, they’re naturally the choice of professional and presidential barbers alike.
It’s the only tool that can give a close and clean shave while offering a luxurious and comfortable experience, especially for men who have the entire country’s worries on their backs. No self-respecting barber would stoop down to using a cheap plastic disposable or a laid-back safety. For them, it’s the straight razor through and through. It’s the only razor fit for a president.
Here at Naked Armor, our straight razors are luxurious and, dare we say, presidential. They’re crafted using artisanal methods from high-grade Japanese steel and fine, valuable timber wood to achieve the ideal blade-to-handle ratio in supporting the perfect grip.
Professional barbers trust naked Armor's straight razor.
These razors are versatile for all hair textures and different shaving skill sets. Our unique blade design is between a full hollow and half hollow grind. Whether you’ve got coarse or fine hair, our Naked Armor razor will help you get that clean, close shave.
If you’re shopping for a fine gift for your loved one this Presidents’ Day, take advantage of our special offer on our razors and shaving kits. They’re going to be worth every cent.
Check out our site for more of our stuff.
More Essential Reads:
- President’s Day 2023. History. https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/presidents-day. February 1, 2023
- D. Kopf. It’s been more than a century since a US president had facial hair. Quartz. https://qz.com/914048/presidents-day-when-was-the-last-time-a-us-president-had-facial-hair-not-in-100-years/. February 19, 2017
- The Founding Fathers. History. https://www.history.com/topics/american-revolution/founding-fathers-united-states. August 3, 2022
- E. Janik. Fashions on the Face: Beards in American History. Erika Janik. https://erikajanik.com/2013/09/04/fashions-on-the-face-beards-in-american-history/
- S.G. McBride. Power is on the side of the beard. US History Scene. https://ushistoryscene.com/article/beards/
- M. Bibby. Henry VIII’s Beard Tax. Historic UK https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofEngland/Henry-VIII-Beard-Tax/
- S. Trainor. The Racially Fraught History of the American Beard. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/01/the-racially-fraught-history-of-the-american-beard/283180/
- R. Herrick. Why Beards And Mustaches Are Rare For Modern American Politicians.. Scholars. https://scholars.org/contribution/why-beards-and-mustaches-are-rare-modern-american-politicians. April 2, 2015
- L. Wade. The Politics Of Facial Hair. Pacific Standard. https://psmag.com/news/the-politics-of-facial-hair. May 3, 2017
- Trench Diseases of the First World War. Western Front Association. https://www.westernfrontassociation.com/world-war-i-articles/trench-diseases-of-the-first-world-war/
- M. Gustashaw. The Reason Most Politicians Don’t Have Beards (But Paul Ryan Does). GQ. https://www.gq.com/story/paul-ryan-beard-politician-facial-hair. December 31, 2015
- Can Donald Trump (while in office) shave his head? Quora. https://www.quora.com/Can-Donald-Trump-while-in-office-shave-his-head
- J. Peters. Lincoln Had One. So Did Uncle Sam. Slate. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2012/04/beards_in_politics_there_hasn_t_been_a_bearded_major_party_presidential_nominee_in_almost_100_years_why_.html
- H. Sidey. The Presidency What The Barber Knew. Time http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,537709,00.html. November 6, 2023
- S. Young. Barack Obama's barber reveals what it's like to cut the 44th president's hair. Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/barack-obama-hair-zariff-barber-hyde-park-hair-salon-president-white-house-a7537101.html. January 20, 2017