The Corner

The Beard of Victory

Bob, one reason to support candidate Joe Miller? His beard.

Speaking for hirsute-Americans, I think it’s about time for facial hair to make a comeback in the GOP. According to historians, the Republicans have the hairier legacy of the two parties, and yet who is the last bearded Republican Senator you can name? We mustn’t let a Democrat, former Sen. Jon Corzine of New Jersey, continue to be the standard-bearer of scruff in that august body.

Remember, it was a Republican — A. Lincoln — who single-handedly took facial hair from prohibited to mandatory in Washington. For sixty fifty-plus years following Lincoln’s adoption of the chin-strap, one couldn’t be a successful president without credible facial hair. Just consider what happened to the two exceptions over that span. They impeached Andrew Johnson. They shot William McKinley.

UPDATE: Fred Schwarz informs me that the last VP with facial hair was Charles Curtis, who served under Hoover. Indeed, Curtis’s was a fine mustache.

UPDATE II: I have been made aware that the existence of a facial-hair gap between Republicans and Democrats, at the presidential level at least, has transcended the crude conjectures of historians and moved into the realm of scientific necessity: I give you Kalt’s Law, named for Michigan State Law professor Brian Kalt, who discovered it:

“Under the modern two-party system, if a candidate has facial hair, the Republican always has as much, or more, than the Democrat.”

Some notes.

1. It would be the case that the Republican always has more, but for 1904 in which both the Republican Roosevelt and the Democrat Parker had mustaches.

2. This goes by coverage, not amount of hair as such (e.g., 1872: a full but short beard (Grant) is more than a long “neck beard” (Greeley). In 1904, Parker had a longer mustache than Roosevelt, but it doesn’t look like it covered more (see #1).

3. Here is a full table of pairings, Republican vs. Democrat:

1856, Frémont (beard) and Buchanan (nothing)

[in 1860, Lincoln didn’t grow his beard until after the election]

1864, Lincoln (no-mustache beard) and McClellan (mustache)

1868, Grant (beard) and Seymour (neck beard)

1872, Grant (beard) and Greeley (neck beard)

1876, Hayes (beard) and Tilden (nothing)

1880, Garfield (beard) and Hancock (vandyke)

1884, Blaine (beard) and Cleveland (mustache)

1888, Harrison (beard) and Cleveland (mustache)

1892, Harrison (beard) and Cleveland (mustache)

[1896 and 1900 featured no facial hair]

1904, Roosevelt (mustache) and Parker (mustache)

1908, Taft (mustache) and Bryan (nothing)

1912, Taft (mustache) and Wilson (nothing)

1916, Hughes (beard) and Wilson (nothing)

[1920 through 1940 featured no facial hair]

1944, Dewey (mustache) and Roosevelt (nothing)

1948, Dewey (mustache) and Truman (nothing)

[1952 through 2008 featured no facial hair]

4. No Democrat ever had a full beard.

5. Starting with their very first candidate, Frémont (and overlooking Lincoln’s quickly rectified lack of a beard in 1860), every Republican until 1896 had a beard. Besides McKinley, every one of them until 1920 had some facial hair.

6. Why would this be? Some amount of coincidence, surely. And some playing fast and loose with the terms (see 1904). But there may have been some difference in regional styles — other than Roosevelt and Dewey, the Republicans were all from the relative hinterlands (California, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana).

Daniel FosterDaniel Foster is a former news editor of National Review Online.

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