The Bearded Age – A history of presidential beards

Here’s another great article from The New York Times, this one about how Abraham Lincoln was the first American president to sport a beard and how he ushered an age where all but one president had a beard or mustache when elected over a 50-year period.

Here are some highlights from the article:

The story of how Lincoln decided to let his chin whiskers sprout has been retold so many times that it’s almost legendary: Grace Bedell, an 11-year-old in upstate New York, wrote him a letter a few weeks before the election. “I have got 4 brothers,” she told the Republican candidate, “and part of them will vote for you any way and if you let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you. you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President.” Lincoln replied to the “dear little miss”: “As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affect[at]ion if I were to begin it now?” Just days after his election, though, he made up his mind. “Billy,” he supposedly told his barber, “let’s give them a chance to grow.”

*****

Yet there was much more to it than that. For more than a hundred years, American men had, nearly without exception, gone clean-shaven; in the late 18th century, a Philadelphia woman considered it noteworthy when she saw “an elephant and two bearded men” in the street one day. Now, in 1860, beards seemed to be sprouting everywhere, proliferating as rapidly and luxuriantly as some new species of invasive tropical plant.

Most American historians, when they have considered the 19th-century whisker revolution at all, have assumed it had to do with Civil War soldiers avoiding the inconvenience of shaving. In fact, the phenomenon predated the war by a number of years – and was the subject of a great deal of contemporary comment and debate. By the mid-1850s, talk of a “beard movement” was sweeping the nation. In 1857, an intrepid journalist strolled through Boston’s streets, conducting a statistical survey: of the 543 men he tallied, no fewer than 338 had full, bushy beards, while nearly all the rest sported lesser facial hair of various sorts. Only four were “men of the old school, smooth shaven, with the exception of slight tufted promontories jutting down from either ear, as if designed as a compromise measure between the good old doctrine and modern radicalism.”

As that remark suggests, antebellum beards bristled with political connotations. American newspapers reported that in Europe, beards were seen as “dangerous” tokens of revolutionary nationalism, claiming that the Austrian and Neapolitan monarchies even went so far as to ban them. In England they were associated with the sudden burst of martial fervor during the Crimean War. When the trend reached America, connotations of radicalism and militarism traveled with it, spanning the Mason-Dixon Line. It was no accident that the timid Northern Democrats who sympathized with slaveholders – like President James Buchanan – were called “doughfaces.” Meanwhile, the Republicans’ first standard-bearer, John C. Frémont in 1856, had also been the first bearded presidential candidate in American history. (The most famous antebellum beard of all, though, was John Brown’s.)

Will we ever have another beard movement?

  

Queen Latifah grew up above a barbershop in New Jersey


Photo from fOTOGLIF

Rapper/actor Common and singer/actress Queen Latifah attend the premiere of “Just Wright” at Ziegfeld Theatre on May 4, 2010 in New York City.

Queen Latifah offered up an interesting tidbit about her life when discussing the new movie.

Queen Latifah isn’t just playing a Nets fan in the new film “Just Wright,” which opens Friday. The Newark native has been one all her life.

“I used to live over a barbershop when I moved to East Orange. It was called Modern Era Barbers,” says the rapper-singer-actress.

“And Darryl Dawkins, who used to play for the Nets — who was also the first person to shatter a backboard — used to come and get his hair cut there. So it was very exciting to see an NBA player come around the way to get his hair cut. When that white Mercedes pulled up right in front of my house, I knew he was downstairs. And he signed a poster for me. I had it on my wall growing up. So I’ve always been kind of a Nets fan.”

  

The Art of Shaving Barber Spa

What is this place? According to their website:

The Art of Shaving Barber Spa is a unique concept that combines traditional barber services with aromatherapy skin treatments. For the ultimate indulgence, experience our renowned Royal Shave, scissor haircut, or skin treatment performed by our expertly trained master barbers in the luxurious surroundings of our shops.

They now have locations all around the country.

Chalk this up as one of the new barbershop trends – mixing the old with the new.

The old Business 2.0 did an article in this new combination several years ago.

THE MANHATTAN BLOCK THAT HOUSES THE ART of Shaving’s flagship store is a preppy paradise. The main Brooks Brothers store is down the street, the Yale Club just around the corner. Inside the boutique, barbers wield horn-handled straight razors and badger-hair brushes, then soothe customers’ faces with postshave clay masks. An hour later the newly shaven emerge with shopping bags full of sandalwood-scented aftershaves, lemony preshave oils, and nickel-handled razors, hoping to re-create the experience at home.

Part barbershop and part pampering spa, the Art of Shaving is pouncing on the fast-growing men’s grooming trend by appealing to consumer nostalgia. Its 10 retail outlets–five of which have onsite barbers–are dedicated to making men better shavers by getting them to trade in their Barbasol. Though several premium shaving brands have emerged during the past few years, the Art of Shaving is by far the most successful. Last year the company booked a 15 percent net profit margin on more than $15 million in sales–half of which came from upscale department stores like Neiman Marcus–pulling past hipper brands like $3 million Sharps Barber & Shop and traditional lines like Truefitt & Hill. Now, with plans to open 40 more U.S. stores during the next two years, husband-and-wife founders Eric Malka and Myriam Zaoui think the Art of Shaving’s retro appeal can easily win over mainstream buyers. “You’d be surprised how often customers refer to their fathers and grandfathers,” Malka says. “That’s as emotional as it gets.”

Give us your thoughts if you’ve checked it out, but we’re all for new ideas in this area.

  

The barber to the baseball stars

Here’s an inspiring story of a barber who caters to major league baseball players and other superstar athletes and he does it mostly on the run! Angel Lucas Pena worked his way into one of the most prolific circles for a any business person, let alone a barber, by being aggressive and being really good at those haircuts. Read how a great haircut for Red Sox player David Ortiz turned into boom times for Mr. Pena!

You won’t find Pena’s name in a program or media guide. He has no background in baseball and is not a trainer, team executive or agent, but he is trusted by virtually every star in the game. Pena, nicknamed “Monster99,” is the barber of baseball.

“Everybody around the league knows who he is, and everybody loves him,” says Ortiz, who has a barber chair in his garage courtesy of Pena. “Everybody is cool with him because he’s so cool. I’m telling you, he’s got a relationship with everyone.”

Pena, a 33-year-old product of New York City, has a contact list that would make agent Scott Boras envious.

In the last few months, he has cut the hair of a wide array of baseball luminaries. From players such as Ryan Braun, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Torii Hunter, Matt Kemp, Cliff Lee, Tim Lincecum, Manny Ramirez, CC Sabathia and Justin Upton to Hall of Famers Yogi Berra and Reggie Jackson to Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen to New York Mets general manager Omar Minaya.

Great story!

  

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