Hair is a language; it announces our gender, class and even our politics. George Washington rejected wigs as too aristocratic for the new Republic. He tied his long powdered hair in a “queue,” while his successors embraced unpowdered styles inspired by ancient Rome. Federalists like John Adams wore long hair, while Jefferson’s Democrats countered with shortened cuts. By the mid-19th century, beards returned after a long absence. Virile-looking and practical on the battlefield, beards were suited to the Civil War; Grant kept his when he entered the White House. The safety razor’s invention around 1900 marked the beginning of the end for presidential facial hair. For the last 100 years, there have been very few stylistic developments of note; the most significant change of late comes with our current commander in chief, whose hair has brought welcome diversity to the presidential scalp. Related: Strands of American History — Coiffures of First Ladies »
—PENNY HOWELL JOLLY, a professor of art history at Skidmore College and the author of “Hair: Untangling a Social History”
Hair-Portraits of the presidents. From left to right: George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, James K. Polk, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama.