Fear the beard
By Craig Allan, Business Manager
It is often rumoured that beards give of an aura of aged experience and wisdom, but that fails to be seen at the ballot box.
On June 30 of this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sprung forth with a clean shaven face. For many, this was a welcome sight, but there may have been more to this hair reduction than just a simple style change. This was likely done to establish a clean-cut look to Canadians in advance of a federal election call. Why would Trudeau go for such a follicle reduction ahead of an election? It may be because facial hair does not win elections.
When looking back at Canadian prime ministers throughout the years a noticeable pattern emerges. Not just that they are all white men, but also that none of them have had any facial hair on them since Louis St. Laurent who was prime minister from 1948 to 1958. It is often rumoured that beards give of an aura of aged experience and wisdom, but that fails to be seen at the ballot box.
While looking at other democratic countries the lack of facial hair is also apparent. The United States hasn’t had a facial-haired president since William Howard Taft who was president from 1908 to 1912. Other nations like France and Britain also correlate with this as the last British prime minister to win with facial hair being Harold Macmillan from 1957 to 1963 (though a beard was not a factor through the many Margaret Thatcher years), and Vincent Auriol’s 1947 French presidential victory was the last time France ever elected a fuzzy leader. Even then, all these previous examples were all moustaches and not full beards.
There is even perhaps evidence that having facial hair can lead to failure even if the candidate is favoured to win. In the 1947 US Presidential Election Harry Truman won re-election over the favoured Thomas Dewey. One of the factors that some surmised as to why Dewey lost was due to the fact that he had a moustache. It has been theorized that women didn’t vote for him because they did not care for facial hair and turned their votes to the clean shaven Truman. This is also one of many factors that could have caused Richard Nixon to lose the 1960 presidential race. This is because in the first ever televised debate Nixon came in with a five o’clock shadow, and that paired with his exhausted and dishevelled look was not popular—and these were just a few of the many baffling choices Nixon made during that debate.
Had Trudeau not shaved, we could have been staring down the path of two of the four leaders being beard inclined. Unfortunately, the option of shaving the beard is unlikely for NDP leader Jagmeet Singh because his beard is culturally important and shaving it is probably not something he would be willing to compromise on.
This correlation of beards to election success may simply be a coincidence, but it nevertheless is an interesting study. Maybe in the future a distinguished beard may be something voters may find trustworthy and confident, but for now the chances are slim that we will see a leader with cookie crumbs in his beard anytime soon.