Rarely do we think of how beards define a nation. Picture the wild west, with rugged cowboys with their classic thick mustache and grizzly stubble. Or the French and the famous Van Dyke. The same is true for the U.S of A. From the beards of the bayou through to the rugged wilds of Wyoming, beards have shaped the American style and even politics. Some have stuck around to the modern-day, while the bad and the ugly have thankfully been lost on the barbershop floor of history.
But what are the best and downright weirdest beards of America? And how has the beard shaped our nation?
How Lincoln Brought Beards Back
Beards today are everywhere men are. From hipsters with their handlebar mustaches to the dads reliving the stubble days of their youth. Yet, not one major politician sports a beard. That’s surprising considering perhaps the most well-regarded President – Abraham Lincoln – is defined by his top hat and chin strap beard. Nor is the phenomenon new. Not one of the signers of the US Constitution wore a beard or mustache, a relic of the Puritans past, who preferred wigs to beards.
Even jolly old Uncle Sam was clean-shaven when his first incarnation appeared in 1852. It wasn’t till ol’ Abe himself grew his full beard after his election that beards saw a brief resurgence.
The Uncle Sam
That brings us to our first exotic beard: the Uncle Sam. Here’s a beard you’ll never see in public. Composed of a big tuft of chin hair, it’s one-part goatee, one-part actual goat. It’s a highly unusual beard today and still wasn’t that common at the time. Still, it gives the American figurehead a distinctive look we couldn’t do without.
The Abe Lincoln
Uncle Sam’s chin tuft clearly draws strongly on the Abe Lincoln school of beardcraft. Lincoln eschewed the mustache, preferring the chin curtain style. But the story of why he grew the beard is much sadder.
Though it’s strange to believe today, contemporaries considered Lincoln nothing short of hideous. They said as much. “The leanest, lankiest, most ungainly mass of legs, arms, and hatchet face ever strung upon a single frame” was how one paper described the then-presidential candidate. The Charleston Mercury put it more succinctly: “a horrid-looking wretch.”
Lincoln wasn’t oblivious: in a famous exchange, the President was branded two-faced. To which Lincoln replied, “If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?”
Still, Lincoln wanted to improve his appearance: a significant setback in his presidency. Thankfully, his savior came in the form of a young 11-year-old supporter named Grace Bedell, who sagely advised that some whiskers would “look a great deal better for your face is so thin.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
The Handlebar Moustache
Some time passed before facial hair was able to re-enter the popular imagination of the American nation. However, America's 26th President Theodore Roosevelt, affectionately known as "Teddy" brought style back in the form of the robust handlebar moustache. Roosevelt was known for his exuberant personality, and his vast range of interests and achievements that became encapsulated as a "cowboy" persona defined with robust masculinity.
He wore it with passion and pride, and we think he wore it well. He is easily considered by historians to be one of the most popular top 5 best US Presidents, even after his death in 1919. And, his legacy continues on, as even today you'll see modern men carrying on this style, especially in the more Western states.
The Horseshoe Moustache
Feeling brave? Feeling bold? Try growing America's own horseshoe mustache. Popular with bikers and Hulk Hogan, the horseshoe mustache is a classic of the American West. A symbol of freedom, big, noisy engines, and an open road.
Exactly when bikers coopted the horseshoe mustache isn’t known. But there’s no doubt Hulk Hogan put this all-American mustache on the map.
The Duck Dynasty
Now there’s a new beard in the country. Made famous by the reality tv show Duck Dynasty, this beard is a wild and overgrown full beard. These self-proclaimed “redneck millionaires” were rocking a beard classic to their heritage, but which was unusual across the states today.
While it’s not caught on, it’s a strong and bold look. But we might advise a little extra beard oil if you’re planning on growing one of these monsters.