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If Joe Lhota wins, he'd be the first mayor with a beard in 100 years

Joe Lhota

Joe Lhota Photo Credit: NYC Mayoral Candidate and former MTA Chief Joe Lhota. (Charles Eckert)

Not only is Republican Joe Lhota trying to make up big ground in the polls against Democrat Bill de Blasio, he's trying to defy history by becoming the first bearded mayor in 100 years, according to an amNewYork survey of mayoral portraits.

Only three mayors in the last century have had facial hair at all, the last being David Dinkins from 1989 to 1993, and you have to go way back to 1913 for a mayor with a full beard, when William Jay Gaynor was running the city. Political experts and beard fans say a factor behind the gap may be the old stereotype that bearded folks can't be trusted.

Daniel Mitchell, the president of the Gotham City Beard Alliance, a beard enthusiast group, said city voters, especially the younger ones, are less suspicious of a leader with facial hair. Mitchell thinks that stigma will go the way of the dinosaur.

"I don't know where it comes from. A lot of great people had beards, like Jesus," said Mitchell, 34.

De Blasio, 52, had a beard but said he shaved it off in 2011 because it was going gray. "I didn't leave the beard, the beard left me," he said.

In a statement, Lhota, 58, who has had his beard since college, said it was a shame that his opponent didn't decide to keep his facial hair.

"My wife and daughter have given me the stamp of approval so that's all I need -- although they did tell me I don't pull it off quite as well as Brad Pitt," he joked.

Andrew Moesel, a political strategist for Sheinkopf Ltd., said the mayor of one of the largest cities in the world is expected to keep up a classy appearance.

However, Moesel agreed that mindsets regarding beards have changed. He noted several city and state leaders sport facial hair, such as state Senator and Public Advocate candidate Daniel Squadron and veteran Rep. Charlie Rangel.

"A mayor has to conform himself as a professional but there is nothing wrong with a beard," he said. "It's a style statement, even in this day and age that voters are sure to remember it one way or another."

Many New Yorkers said they really didn't care if a candidate had facial hair.

Ralph Esposito, who said he had a mustache for one summer, called facial hair irrelevant. "I don't think it should be a determent," the 59-year-old said.

Jackie Mills, 35, of the Upper East Side, said she doesn't find facial hair on guys appealing, but doesn't judge a candidate based on it. "If they like it, they should keep it. I prefer candidates who stay true to themselves and don't change to get votes," she said.

Mitchell, who is hosting a charity beard competition in December, also pushed for all election candidates to be honest with their face.

"The U.S. is the only place that has this problem," he said of the beard stigma. "You go to Israel or the Middle East and everyone has a beard. No one looks at them and says, 'I wouldn't vote for that guy.'"


Facial footnotes

Since 1913 there have only been three mayors who sported some form of facial hair, based on their
mayoral portraits.

William Jay Gaynor, who served between 1910 and 1913, was the last mayor to sport a full beard. His tenure in City Hall is remembered for a failed assassination attempt early in his term.  Although he survived being shot in the throat, he died in office from a heart attack.

John Francis Hylan, who served between 1918 and 1925, had a mustache while he was mayor. During his two terms, the locomotive engineer helped foster the city-owned IND subway division. He died at his Forest Hills home in 1936.

David Dinkins, the city’s first black mayor, is the last mayor to have a mustache. While serving between 1990 and 1993, Dinkins worked to decrease the crime rate and improve several neighborhoods including Times Square.

(Ivan Pereira)


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