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Liberal MP Justin Trudeau on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, November 30, 2011. (Sean Kilpatrick/Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Liberal MP Justin Trudeau on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, November 30, 2011. (Sean Kilpatrick/Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Forget shiddle diddle: What's up with Justin's facial hair? Add to ...

For all the attention paid to Liberal MP Justin Trudeau’s “dust-up” in the House of Commons yesterday, during which he called the Environment Minister “a piece of shit,” few have noted Mr. Trudeau’s far more heinous crime.

Cop a look at that facial hair.

This man is a Member of Parliament? He looks like an extra from Pirates of the Caribbean. That’s if you’re being nice about it. Colombian drug lords have been better groomed.

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Mr. Trudeau did have a good excuse for a while: He was raising money and awareness about prostate cancer, as part of the Movember campaign. (NDP MP Peter Stoffer and Conservative Larry Miller did the same.)

But Movember ended a couple weeks ago, commandant. And when facial hair and politics collide, the results are often ugly. Dictators wear facial hair. Hard-working, tax-payer-loving, baby-kissing pols? Not so much.

Except for the ones who do, of course. Facial hair has a long and, until recently, generally proud tradition in Canadian politics. Alexander Mackenzie (that’s the second Prime Minister of Canada, in case you were wondering) wore a bushy chinstrap of sorts, as did Henri Bourassa, Louis Riel and, more recently, Doug Henning, the former senior vice-president of the country’s Natural Law Party. (On second thought, maybe he isn’t a good example.)

One of the few standout exceptions to the taboo against facial hair in politics, of course, was the late Jack Layton, whose moustache was his trademark. During the last federal election, reporters covering Mr. Layton’s campaign donned fake moustaches on April Fool’s Day. Another newspaper even superimposed the late NDP leader’s moustache on other stars, including Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber, Charlie Sheen and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. It looked ridiculous on Ms. Kardashian, impossible on Mr. Bieber, dirty on Mr. Sheen and on Mr. Harper: absolutely creepy. (This might be why the Prime Minister did not heed the pleas of a group of Ottawa students to grow a mustache in support of Movember this year.)

According to the Los Angeles Times, no U.S. president has sported facial hair since William Howard Taft, who served from 1909 to 1913.

That hasn’t stopped almost-presidents, however, including Al Gore, who grew what’s been termed an “exile beard” after he narrowly lost the election in 2000.

Such is the taboo against facial hair in American politics that former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson shaved his off when President Barack Obama tapped him to join his cabinet. Mr. Obama didn’t seem impressed with the change, for what it’s worth. “I thought that whole Western, rugged look was really working for him,” he said.

So the question is: Should Justin Trudeau shave it or save it?

Follow on Twitter: @cnutsmith

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