Scrutinizing political leaders during an election campaign is nothing new, but one candidate’s feature in particular is not getting a smooth reception. The beard belonging to federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair is being carefully combed over everywhere from the national media to social media.
One website even photoshopped Mulcair’s face to get an idea of what he’d look like clean-shaven.
On Twitter, Mulcair’s beard has not one, but two accounts. Many tweeters are weighing in on all aspects of the politician’s facial hair, from its potential to bring good luck to questions about its maintenance.
Rubbing Mulcair’s beard is believed to prolong life… https://twitter.com/ThomasMulcair/status/644923685418106880 …
I wonder is Mulcair uses a beard wax? How does he always keep it so well kempt?
I think it’s time we tell @ThomasMulcair to shave the beard off, Canada, or we’re damn well not voting for him. #elxn42 #cdnpoli
Adam Lewis Schroeder @adamlschro Sep 9
Is “Put a Beard on It” a Mulcair slogan already?
In a Globe and Mail article titled Dear Mr. Mulcair: Lose the beard, writer Melissa Carrol details how few Canadian prime ministers have sported scruff — Alexander Mackenzie in 1873 and Mackenzie Bowell in 1894. That means if Mulcair is elected on Oct. 19, he’d be the first bearded prime minister in over 100 years.
Fidel Castro aside, it’s tough to find recent examples of world leaders with facial hair. Brazil’s former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is probably amongst the most prominent.
A May study by the Scholars Strategy Network found that the “heightened masculinity” of a beard can work against a politician, particularly with female voters.
Toronto image consultant Karen Brunger thinks it builds a barrier.
“We don’t get to see his face, so we wonder who he really is,” she told Yahoo Canada News. “What’s behind the mask? It comes across as a grandfather, Santa Claus type of beard. Happy, jolly, that kind of thing. It’s not conducive to running a country. It’s going to turn people in business off.”
Keith Flett, organizer of the London-based Beard Liberation Front, isn’t surprised by the negative attention Mulcair and his beard are getting. The group’s mandate opposes the discrimination of beards and those who wear them.
“The prejudice is that the beard is hiding something or people with beards are not quite what they seem or careless about their appearance,” he tells Yahoo Canada News.
Flett says that while suspicion or dislike of beards, known as pogonophobia, is an age-old thing, there seems to be a gradual change of heart.
“In more recent times there has been quite a backlash against the ‘clean-shaven man in a suit’ image sported by politicians, and the untrustworthy label has slowly transferred across to them,” he says.
For his part, Mulcair hasn’t let the attention get him down, solidifying his facial hair as a trademark. NDP campaign material includes circular, orange fans printed with a graphic of his beard, which supporters are encouraged to place in front of their faces.