Grover Cleveland had one. William Taft had a big one. Teddy Roosevelt and Abe Lincoln both had funny looking ones.

I’m speaking, of course, about beards — or any facial hair for that matter.

Beards have a checkered history. Their reputation goes up and down as often as often as a Kardashian’s heels. Who can think of a pirate that never had a beard? Some — Blackbeard for instance — were even named for their facial hair.

On the other side of the coin are kindly icons like Father Time and Santa Claus, neither of whom would be recognizable without their trademark flowing beards.

Being as nature does nothing without a purpose, one can’t help but ponder the intended function of a beard. To keep the face warm, perhaps. To assist in camouflaging man for hunting purposes? To increase his size, like a peacock or a cobra, when confronting an enemy? Maybe all of these reasons. It would explain why beards do not appear until manhood (even P.T. Barnum never found a bearded baby).

Surprisingly, only five U.S. presidents have sported a full beard. Only four have had mustaches. Clearly, the Republicans are the hairier party. Every Republican candidate between 1856 and 1892 had a beard. Democrats have never even had a bearded candidate, much less a president. Grover Cleveland, with a mustache, is the only Democratic president to have had facial hair.

You don’t see many Van Dykes these days (the upside down triangular goatee), but who could possibly ever imagine the Three Musketeers without their trademark facial hair and accompanying devil-may-care roguishness. Speaking of the devil, even old Satan himself added a Van Dyke beard when he felt that his temple horns, pitchfork and fiery red cape just didn’t convey his innate evilness adequately.

So, what’s up with a mustache? It’s like the wearer can’t decide. Make up your mind already — are you going to grow a beard or not? Beards scream non-conformity and aggressiveness. Mustaches whisper indecisiveness. Even the spelling is indecisive — is it mustache or moustache? Get off the fence already.

The late Sadam Hussein had a mustache, as did Stalin, Ghengis Khan and Rosie O’Donnell (I never actually realized this until my recent purchase of a high-definition TV). Clearly, there is some sort of cosmic connection between mustaches and cantankerousness.

Full beards are in surprisingly short supply in the entertainment industry, but mustaches are abundant. Many celebrities would be unrecognizable without their hairy upper lip — Sam Elliot, Geraldo, Tom Selleck, David Crosby, Gene Shalit, Frank Zappa and Yosemite Sam, to name a few.

Did you know that beards are forbidden in the modern military — except for submariners? Go figure.

And, why do bald men seem to be able to grow such inordinately full beards? An optical illusion? Nature’s way of compensating?

And finally, if you wish to join the manly man beard club you should be aware that studies show that the two things that most influence the growth of beards are warmer climates, and the anticipation of sex.

I leave you with a quote from William Shakespeare: ‘He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man!’

Opinions offered in If I Were King are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Tri-County Times or its staff. Email the King at Some content adapted from the internet.

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