A beard should be a triumph, a chinward celebration of masculine virility at its finest. But sadly, it doesn’t always work out that way.

Take, for instance, the case of Al Gore circa 2001…

In the wake of the bitterly contested 2000 elections, Gore had earned a little downtime. And when he reemerged onto the scene sporting a full salt-and-pepper chin covering, it was hard not to see it as a manifestation of itchy self-doubt. After living on CNN for a few months, it seemed like he was trying not to be recognized.

It was, to put it quite simply, a beard of defeat.

By the time he was mounting a genuine comeback, with his PowerPoint slides and inconvenient truths, the beard was long gone. It’s a shame, because it’s actually a pretty handsome specimen, but as always in politics, it’s more about the messaging than the substance—and the messaging on this was disastrous. Luckily, this was one political liability he could just shave off.

—R.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Russell Brandom