geoffrey gauchet

Four More Beards! Four More Beards!

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

If you’ve ever seen me, you know that I’ve had some form of facial hair for the last decade, including mutton chops for a couple of months. I’m a big fan of facial hair, particularly beards, and I figured since the election just happened and a lot of guys are taking part in “No Shave November/Movember”, this would be a great time to discuss US Presidents and their facial hair.

There have been 44 US Presidents and of those 44, ten (22.7%) have had facial hair — that is, a beard, moustache, or mutton chops. There are 5 other presidents that have had significant sideburns (including Washington) and Harry Truman would often grow a goatee on vacation, but since I don’t count that as full-on facial hair, I’m excluding them from this count.

Zachary Taylor was the first president to sport facial hair: a moustache. He only served 1 year in office and his cause of death is still not certain. I can tell you with great certainty that it was not his moustache. Taylor was a pretty cool guy in that he didn’t always go along with party lines, but he was also a slaveholder in Baton Rouge (big ups to Louisiana!), so I mean, not so cool.

Image courtesy Wikipedia

The most recent president with facial hair was William Taft’s magnificent lip bristles, who ended his term in 1913, which was almost 100 years ago. Let that sink in — it’s been almost an entire century since we’ve had a president with facial hair. Too long, if you ask me.

Abraham Lincoln was the first president to rock a beard and he did so without a moustache, which I imagine was pretty bad ass back then. This was also the style of beard I’ve had for the longest duration, before the mutton chops, after the mutton chops, and before my current full beard. Lincoln was also the first president to be assassinated, which I can absolutely say was because of Booth’s jealousy of Abe’s chinstrap beard.

Lincoln’s beard was so kick-ass that for the 50 years following his presidency, only 2 presidents — Andrew Johnson and William McKinley — didn’t have facial hair. It was a total dick move of Andrew Johnson to not grow a beard out of respect for his predecessor.

Half of the whiskered presidents had only a moustache, while the other half had a beard of some sort. Also of note is that 7 of the 10 furry presidents were Republicans, while two were Democrats and one was a Whig. 

Under moustachioed and bearded presidents, the United States only saw 2 wars, an average of 0.2 per president. Compare that to the average of 0.45 wars (15 total) brought on by clean-shaven presidents. If you want to stop wars, start voting for the bearded guys, America.

Presidents with facial hair also have more children on average. They have an average of 4.9 children, versus an average of 3.12 children for boring, beardless presidents. Of note, though, is clean shaven Andrew Jackson’s 10 kids.

If you become president and have facial hair, you are also more likely to have been born in Ohio. Exactly half of the facially-superior presidents were born in Ohio, as opposed to a mere 6% of the other presidents.

However, having a beard or a moustache while being a US President is not always awesome. They are more likely to die of an illness in office (20%, vs the clean-shaven’s 12%) and they are more likely to be assassinated, with 20% of bearded presidents going out with a bang and only 3% of un-bearded presidents being assassinated. Probably as a direct result of those numbers, though, presidents with facial hair are more likely (20% vs 15%) to have gotten into office because their predecessor died in office.

Image courtesy Wikipedia

Also likely due to all the deaths, facial hair-having presidents have an average term length of 1.3 terms, while clean-shaven have an average of 1.5 terms.

Other interesting tidbits about facial-haired presidents include Grover Cleveland being the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms and Chester A. Arthur making polygamy illegal and making it illegal for polygamists to hold office AND having a $145M surplus in the budget at the end of his term, before he got sick and died.

So, while there is a higher likelihood of death among presidents with face sweaters, they typically pull up the economy and end oppressions of civil rights and are less likely to bring the country to war (if only because their terms are short).

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