Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

Vote now: Which president had the best facial hair?

December 5, 2016 by NCC Staff


On Martin Van Buren’s birthday today, Constitution Daily wants your opinion on which historic president sported the best facial hair ever.

presidents375And it is a legitimate historic question, since a sitting U.S. president hasn’t worn sideburns, a beard, a mustache, or muttonchops in early 1913, when William Howard Taft left office.

There is some debate over which leader was the first to adopt the 19th century trend of facial hair. John Quincy Adams and Van Buren are shown in images after their presidency with considerably big sideburns.

Adams was in office between 1825 and 1829, and some contemporary images show him with no sideburns or very modest ones. Van Buren images from his time in office, from 1837 to 1841, show the diminutive Van Buren with modest sideburns (and not the famously bushy ones featured in the famous Mathew Brady image of Van Buren).

Most U.S. presidents between 1836 and 1912 had some form of facial hair. The most famous example of hirsuteness happened in 1860, when an 11-year-old girl named Grace Bedell wrote the Republican presidential candidate, Abraham Lincoln, and told Lincoln he would win the election if he grew a beard (which he did).


If you can’t see the poll in the upper part of this story, click this link.


General Ulysses S. Grant went Lincoln one better when he became president in 1869; Grant became the first president with a full beard. Starting with Grant, nine of the next 10 presidents had facial hair (William McKinley was the exception). But after Woodrow Wilson replaced Taft in 1913, a century has passed without whiskers in the White House.

Here is the list of facial hair styles from historic presidents. You can vote in our poll above and ask your online friends to take part in the “hairy” exercise.


Sign up for our email newsletter