Even before Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won a surprise majority in 2015, Canadians have been unsettlingly fixated on his appearance. For better but mostly worse, the nation has managed to turn Trudeau’s every haircut and possible dye job into a national story.
Trudeau’s latest image statement came in the form of a post on his staff photographer’s Instagram page. Long story short, he has a beard! Not just a five o’clock shadow, but a filled-in salt-and-pepper feat of manscaping.
While many have declared the end of the beard trend as far back as 2016, it remains one of the defining tools in a man’s grooming toolkit. It may seem like growing out a beard is the product of laziness and indecision, but the reality is for most men, there’s a deep-seated psychological motivation for hiding one’s chin. With that in mind, VICE has attempted to decipher what’s going on with JT’s new facial hair.
Trudeau has been on vacation
It’s the first Monday of the decade, and all of us are taking our time easing into the Year of Our Lord, 2020. The Trudeaus were spotted in Costa Rica over the holidays, which adds to the theory that he’s just opted out of a few morning shaves. This is the simplest explanation, and therefore, most incorrect of explanations.
He's a changed man
Trudeau’s not the same person he was in 2019, when everyone found out that he did blackface. The story dominated the October election, and he doesn’t want it coming up next time he gets interviewed on late-night television. Though not the biggest change in appearance, Trudeau’s beard could be interpreted as a signal that he’s done with wearing cultures as costumes. He’s embraced his whiteness and dad-ness in the most obvious way he knows how.
He's a serious politician now
The threat of a war between the U.S. and Iran is looming. The planet is burning. Albertans are out of work and pissed off. It’s time to get down to business. Trudeau has said he intends to take a lower-profile, more collaborative approach to governing in his second term. “The place that the visuals or the role that I took on in leading this government sometimes interfered with our ability to actually talk about the really substantive things we were able to get done,” Trudeau said in his year-end interview with The Canadian Press. Wait, this one’s about blackface again, isn’t it?
He's biting NDP leaders' style
Trudeau made his mark on Canadian political history by “outflanking” the progressive New Democrats on the left of the political spectrum (and then throwing most of those promises out after the 2015 election campaign finished). Canadians aren’t going to fall for that one a second time, but maybe this new beard is a covert attempt to channel NDP leaders’ history of beards and moustaches. The New Democrats have held the facial hair party title since 2003, and with Jagmeet Singh at the helm that’s not going to change anytime soon.
He's a wartime prime minister now
Last year, the New Republic wrote the defining feature on why the beard has made such a comeback through the 21st century, positing that the use of beards by U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan had led to a civilian culture “drunk on ‘tacticool’ culture.” In short, men decided beards were badass because the scariest soldiers had them. Trudeau is no stranger to the siren call of alpha masculinity; the man did beat up a senator in a boxing ring, after all. With Iran and the U.S. sabre-rattling, and Canada likely to be kinda, sort-of called upon by the U.S. for military or diplomatic assistance, it could be the sign of a politician desperate to look the part of the modern alpha warrior. Or he just went on a vacation.
It's something hockey-related?
Canada defeated Russia in the gold medal game of the World Juniors Sunday, once again establishing Canada’s dominance when it comes to teenagers playing hockey. The playoff beard is a long established tradition in hockey. It could just be that Trudeau was growing his out because Canada’s team of teenagers could not.
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With files from Josh Visser.