To Shave or Not to Shave

I’m not sure why beards have fallen out of favor among male politicians. I know that I initially grew a beard because I have sensitive skin, especially on my neck, and shaving was simply painful. It was also lower maintenance, since I opted not to go for a goatee or anything stylized. For me, half the idea is to not have to spend time grooming myself. I can probably go a whole week without once examining myself in a mirror.

I discovered later in life when a trimming mishap caused me to shave my beard off completely that I had developed a bit of a double chin. How bad it is depends on my weight, and I’ve lost a lot of weight over the last few years. Still, it isn’t a feature I like and I’m happy to cover it up. That’s about as far as vanity goes in explaining my facial hair decisions.

I certainly don’t keep a beard to look masculine or project any particular kind of image. But I wonder if politicians have been warned off beards and mustaches by political consultants. If I were to run for office, would I have a bunch of “professionals” advising me to go clean-shaven? Would my opponents suggest that I was a secret Muslim?

Maybe Paul Ryan’s beard makes people think he’s less sympathetic to women’s issues. I’d call that accuracy in advertising, actually, but I still think long hair tells you more about a person than facial hair.

What do you think?

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at