Ya think maybe next time SC Democrats can find themselves a candidate who’s willing to SHAVE?

Archie Parnell

No biggie, but each time South Carolina Democrats come up with a guy with a grizzled beard to be their sacrificial lamb to get creamed in a congressional election, I think, “They don’t even want to pretend that they’re serious.”

I grow a beard from time to time.

I grow a beard from time to time.

Come on, guys: Don’t you think it would be good, this being South Carolina, to have a candidate, just once, who is willing to take a minimal effort not to look like a professor who specializes in teaching European socialism?

I grow a beard from time to time. But you know what would be the very first thing I’d do if I decided to run for office? I’d shave. It would be the bare minimum; it would display the slightest willingness to do what it takes to get elected.

Yes, I know it’s stupid, but the criteria a lot of actual, real-life voters go by are stupid. Why give them such an obvious stumbling block? Why not make it just a little easier to win their votes, when it would cost you so little?

The fact that these guys won’t just shave, and then grow the beard back after the election if they must (that super-short one of Parnell’s shouldn’t take more than a week or two to come back), shows that they never really believe in their chances.

Yeah, I know the thing is stacked — the districts are gerrymandered so a Democrat can’t win. But can’t you at least make the minimal gesture, to look like you’re trying?


37 thoughts on “Ya think maybe next time SC Democrats can find themselves a candidate who’s willing to SHAVE?

  1. Tom Stickler

    And after they clean up those whiskers, maybe they can rehearse a few subtle racist dog-whistles, snark a bit about tree-huggers and maybe ogle some woman in the audience.

    Hey! swinging just a few votes would have been enough. How could it hurt?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I’ll ignore your first graf and concentrate on the second…. Indeed, a few votes can be all the difference. Why alienate those few voters who just don’t like the beard? It’s a stupid thing to lose votes over…

  2. Bryan Caskey

    Yeah, I certainly take your point. As someone who has a beard, it’s certainly a balancing act to make sure that I don’t look sloppy. Because, let’s face it, if you’re not shaving, then it can be construed that you’re coming across with a little bit of a relaxed attitude. Sure, this works fine if you’re Clint Eastwood out on the range, or a viking rowing a longboat, but if you’re in the corporate world or otherwise in an environment where your appearance can matter, this can be a tricky needle to thread.

    One of the ways that I try to do that is to make sure that I’m not looking sloppy. Essentially, I make sure that the rest of my appearance is tidy. For instance, if I’m wearing a full suit, have my hair combed, and my tie is properly tied, then you can tell that I do care about my appearance, and therefore my beard isn’t simply an accident.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      The whole neatly-trimmed-beard thing is lost on me; I don’t get it. The great thing about having a beard is that you don’t have to shave. You save all that time and trouble.

      But I look at a guy like Parnell, and to keep a beard that short, it seems to me you’d have to do some trimming every day. And trimming a beard that short without cutting bald spots in it seems like a tedious, persnickety challenge, much harder than simply shaving.

      And then, after all that trouble, you still look grubby! In fact, to my eye (and I know many, if not most, people disagree with me on this), a close-trimmed beard looks much grubbier than a full, long one. First (and this is especially true once it’s started turning gray), a short beard, with the skin showing through it, is pretty mangy. It looks not only sloppy, but kind of dirty. And the shorter you keep it, the more it looks like maybe you’ve just been too lazy to shave (or bathe, probably) the last couple of days.

      If you’re going to grow a beard, GROW A BEARD. Go full Smith Brothers.

      Y’all know how I like to affect the grumpy old man, you-kids-get-off-my-lawn persona, but I’ve got to say this for young men today: They’re not afraid to go ahead and grow a beard. I hated that fad of several years back among young men of overtrimming a beard so that it looked perpetually like they just failed to shave.

      Now, you see young hipsters with full, long Rasputin beards, and I fully approve. THAT’s the way you do it, boys…

      1. Richard

        “Now, you see young hipsters with full, long Rasputin beards, and I fully approve. THAT’s the way you do it, boys…”

        Speaking of which, did you see the new Ken dolls? No wonder Barbie just wants to be friends.

  3. bud

    I’m not sure you’re actually serious or just making an awkward attempt at humor. Assuming this is serious I would just point out that you made a huge deal out of the phonyness of John Edwards (which turns out was correct). So why now are you advising Democrats to engage in phony pandering? I would suggest Mr. Parnell made it close by coming across as authentic.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      He made it close by being a Democrat at a time when Donald Trump is president, and in a district that was until very recently competitive for, and held by, a Democrat. Also, at 28 percent, the district has a black population almost as high as South Carolina’s overall.

      And yes, I’m having fun with the topic, but ask yourself: When is the last time South Carolina was represented in Congress by a man with a beard?

      And do you really not think people look at Parnell, and Bjorn, and think, “That’s some kind of lefty college professor?” I think plenty of people do.

      I really, really do wonder why anyone would run for office with a beard when it is so easily addressed. And when look at them, I really do think that if they had been serious about trying to win, they would have shaved. I’ve had the thought dozens of times.

      And I’m dead serious as to what I would do. If I looked like this…


      And I knew it would only take me 10 minutes with a razor to look like this…

      Brad high res

      Why wouldn’t I go grab the razor and clean myself up before knocking on doors and asking people to vote for me?

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Probably long tie for the campaign, bow tie once I’m in office. It’s funny how many people (folks who probably aren’t around men in suits much) think there’s something weird about bow ties. Whereas people in the State House think they’re cool. And I think folks in Washington are used to them as well…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            The thing about the bow tie is, even if people LIKE it, they remark upon it. Which is weird. I might have seen 10 bow ties on other people in the past hour, yet people will still comment about the one I’m wearing. Like they’ve never seen one or something.

            And if you’re running for office, you really don’t want to be wearing something that people remark upon…

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          And some people think ties are weird, period. I remember getting my haircut once at one of those strip mall haircuttery places, and this girl who was a little bit country was cutting my hair, and she said, “That looks like a politician tie!”

          I looked down to see what I was wearing, and it was about as plain and vanilla as a tie gets. I think it was a Brigade of Guards regimental stripe. Seriously, is there a plainer pattern than that, or more basic, muted colors?

      1. Jeff Mobley

        I love this, especially because you’re wearing the same tie and suit (though I’m only 97% sure it’s the same suit). Perfectly chosen exhibits. What’s interesting to me is that I think you’re making the exact same expression in both pictures. But in the bearded and bespectacled picture, that expression somehow seems less warm and approachable.

        I certainly shaved with much more frequency while I was running for office than I did before or have since. That probably explains why I won 1 precinct instead of 0.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Burl also shared this with me via text, with the caption, “Young professional with neatly trimmed beard:”

      Royal Navy

      That young fellow is from the Royal Navy, of course. Burl notes that “The kiwi pilots were a little more rough and ready:”

      Kiwi pilot

      No kidding. That one’s more like, “Shrink, I want to kill. I want to kill! I want to see blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth! Eat dead, burnt bodies! I mean: Kill. Kill!”

  4. bud

    Given Trump’s horrendous hair and orange hue I’m not sure grooming and apparel really matter. Another indication of just how much the once stodgy, image conscious GOP has changed.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      It’s a mystery. Seriously, if Trump had NO other flaws, you’d think people would take one look at the hair and tell themselves, this guy’s got real problems…

    2. Claus2

      Have you looked at photos of Senators and Congressman on Capitol Hill? 25% of them look like they escaped from the nervous hospital. Maybe you could post your pictures to show what a proper liberal Democrat should look like. The ones they show on television look like homeless people.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      So are you thinking this is the 1860s? In the 19th century, beards were the norm. But as I said, who alive today remembers the last time SC sent a man with a beard to Congress?

      Seriously, surely it came up. Surely, at some point someone would have asked these guys if they were willing to lose the whiskers. If not, well, the ranks of Democratic political consultants have grown even thinner than I thought…

  5. Harry Harris

    Is this thread a subtle attempt at humor or just the occasional bow to superficiality that we need to either ignore or disdain? One could certainly get a laugh from the ways the idea is addressed or decide that such shallowness is symptomatic of the state of our politics and should be shouted down or at least condemned.

    1. bud

      My exact thought. But I think Brad is serious. He has a long history of putting an inordinate amount of weight on style considerations.

    2. Floyd the Barber

      Right, just plain silly. Brad not only trivializes the election, he has a strangely contradictory attitude toward personal grooming. I see in those pictures that he (still) has hair growing on top of his head. But why’s he keep it cut? I mean, if you’re gonna let it grow, then LET IT GROW, right? At least that seems to be his approach to beards.

      But seriously now, whether it’s head hair, facial hair, nose hair or ear hair, hair is hair and requires grooming.

      Unless your name is Phil Robertson.

    3. Brad Warthen Post author

      I don’t know why y’all think in terms of either/or. I’ll say it again: I’m having fun with it, but I’m also telling you that a guy who won’t take the minimal step of shaving before asking people to vote for him isn’t fully committed to the race.

      And I’ll ask this for a third time: Who is the last man with a beard who won election to Congress from South Carolina? There may be a recent one I’m forgetting. If so, remind me.

      There are two sets of people: those who have won election to Congress, and those Democrats have nominated recently for Congress.

      One set is clean-shaven; the other is not…

      1. Bryan Caskey

        “And I’ll ask this for a third time: Who is the last man with a beard who won election to Congress from South Carolina?”

        I believe the answer is…


        John H. Evins.

        Mr. Evins graduated from South Carolina College in 1853, was admitted to the SC Bar in 1856, was commissioned as an officer in the Confederate Army. After the war, he was elected to Congress as a Democrat in 1877 and served until his death in 1884.

        He was the last man from South Carolina to serve in Congress with a beard. (And it was a nice one).

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Very nice.

          Assuming no evidence of more recent bearded congressmen is brought forward, I rest my case…

          Except to say this…

          If you’re someone who wanted to see Parnell elected (I mean Archie; I’m not talking “Ivy Day in the Committee Room“), and therefore find it irritating that I would bring up such a frivolous point, perhaps you should direct your ire toward the candidate himself. It was such a small thing, easy to deal with. And he lost by such a small margin….

  6. bud

    Last POTUS with facial hair was Howard K. Taft. Pretty much all during the preceding 50 years had some type of facial hair. Styles change. And that’s a good thing.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      You mean William Howard Taft.

      He was also the last president to weigh well over 300 pounds.

      Although Trump looks like he’s headed in that direction…

  7. Bart Rogers

    Leaving the snark aside and obvious inability to understand perception, yes, a beard is not a feature that attracts voters. bud made a comment about Trump’s orange hair and for many, it is a total turn-off but if Trump had added beard to go along with it, Hillary Clinton would be POTUS. Trump made up for the hair thing by dressing as Bryan described and anyone with any experience understanding how important appearance is when trying to win voters, impress a future employer, or anything else that requires projecting the right image does accept and understand facial hair does not get high marks.

    The commercials showing guys with the “morning facial” hair in top jobs is BS, it simply doesn’t work that way at least for now. If the guy shown at the top of the post was the candidate, if he shaved the beard, worn a tie that projects strength, he might not have won but he would have picked up more votes.

    Mark Zuckerberg wears a gray T-shirt and jeans every day but he can afford to and he probably doesn’t have a dress code for his employees but he is a different story. If he does as he has indicated and runs for office, it is a safe bet he will dress for the part.

    If you are looking for an example of someone who understood personal appearance and dressed properly, just look at Barack Obama. He never overdressed and never underdressed for any occasion, political or personal, it was always right for the moment. I liked his suits and ties, basic, no nonsense, and they projected confidence and strength.

    Yes, people who cast votes do look at the candidate and appearance does have an impact. Fair? Maybe not but that is human nature.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      When you consider how many people vote for someone purely on the basis of whether they’ve heard the name before, or just pull the party lever without regard to ANYT information about the actual candidates who are running, going by the candidate’s looks seems almost substantive by comparison.

    2. Doug Ross

      People probably don’t notice it because of preconceived ideas, but Trump’s hair color has moved from orange to a sort of strawberry blond with greying on the sides. It doesn’t look that unnatural these days… certainly not as off-putting as some of the hair colors chosen by women these days.


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