Dear reader, remember a time when masks were not mandatory, hand sanitizer wasn’t essential, and vaccines were only administered in doctors’ offices and around flu season? Yes, the pre-pandemic era, when we had much easier concerns such as the climate crisis, terrorist attacks, and mass shootings. But there was one issue that the pandemic actually solved: Justin Trudeau’s beard.
On January 6, 2020, I wrote an article for The Medium discussing my opinions on our beloved Prime Minister’s beard. In the briefest of terms, I hated it. I felt the beard aged the already late 40-something PM and made him look weathered and tired. I wasn’t the only Canadian with a negative opinion of the new look either. A petition that amassed 51 signatures on Change.org jokingly called on the Prime Minister to shave off his beard.
The decision to have a beard has certain political implications that exude a specific image to both citizens and other political actors abroad. How effective this image was at conveying that tonal change is a different question. Regardless, many commentators, including myself, expected the beard to be used as a tool to reinforce Trudeau’s maturity, veterancy in government, and statesmanship as he worked his way through his second term.
And what a second term it was. The beard and long hair became a staple in the Prime Minister’s Covid-19 briefings, reflecting the state of many people during lockdown—disheveled—and a reminder that salons and barbers were shut down too. Frankly, I was amazed that Trudeau kept the beard for that long. The rare times I would check the news during the pandemic, there it would be: patchy and as gray as ever, reminding me that we now live our lives in fishbowls.
And so, for nearly a year and a half, Trudeau’s beard sat on his face, silently mocking me, until rumours of an election began to surface early in the summer. On June 30, Trudeau shaved off his beard and cut his hair, an act that on the surface may have seemed like a way to promote the fact that businesses, such as hair services, had reopened in Ontario. Yet, some interpreted the image change as a sign that an election was “imminent.” Well, we’re less than two weeks away from election day and I’d say those people were right.
How helpful that clean shaven face is for Trudeau’s popularity is debatable. It seems that Canada may be tired of seeing that jawline and instead be looking for a different face and future. As Trudeau falls behind in the polls, the weight and pitfalls of his past six years in office—and the anger that voters have being forced into an election now—currently prove to be more important and powerful than any charm that face could hope to radiate.
As unnecessary and risky as holding an election during a pandemic is, I am thankful that the situation has led to that awful beard being shaved off. Whether it was abandoned because Trudeau wanted to revert back to his youthful image, or because he knew he couldn’t compete with Jagmeet Singh, at least this citizen can finally watch the news without having to stare at that unpleasant gray mess.