As 2018 came to a close, Washington D.C. was rocked by an unprecedented development that few saw coming, and nobody was prepared for:
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's beard, which was first spotted after Thanksgiving and proceeded to baffle, infuriate, and delight the internet for a solid few weeks. With its sharp corners and speckled bits of grey, Cruz's facial hair has proved to be one of the most unexpected fashion developments to hit Washington D.C. in years.
Although beards are uncommon among federal lawmakers, they're not unprecedented. The late
Rep. Steve LaTourette had a beard while serving in Congress, as did former Rep. David Obey and former Sen. Tom Coburn. Former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan had a beard at various points in his tenure, and even a few current lawmakers, such as Reps. Don Young and Al Green, regularly sport full beards on Capitol Hill.
Nevertheless, by the standards of political facial hair, Cruz's beard stirred up an unusually high level of interest and controversy. Maybe it's because
Cruz's face itself is already a topic of academic interest, or perhaps it's simply that he is one of the last male politicians anybody expected to grow a beard. Regardless of the reason, Cruz's facial hair took America on a veritable roller-coaster ride, and public opinion regarding his beard's quality swung back and forth several times. Let's recap. Nov. 26, 2018: Cruz Unveils "Beard"
The first public sighting of Cruz's new facial hair was on Nov. 26, when Business Insider reporter Joe Perticone posted a photo of the Texas senator captioned, "Ted Cruz grew a beard over Thanksgiving!"
This sparked an intense social media debate as to
whether the hair on Cruz's face was substantial enough to truly constitute a "beard." In a non-scientific BuzzFeed poll conducted the next day, 47% of respondents said that it wasn't a beard, 7% said it was, and 46% responded, "This content depresses me." Nov. 27, 2018: Cruz's Beard Generally Poorly Received Nov. 30, 2018: Will It Last?
Though unconfirmed, many people speculated that Cruz's beard was the result of "No Shave November," a
charity event to raise cancer awareness. As the clock approached midnight on the last day of the month, the San Antonio Current asked: Will Cruz "finally mow what clearly won't grow?" Dec. 1, 2018: Cruz Keeps, Addresses Beard
He would not. Cruz spoke at the annual Gridiron Club dinner on Dec. 1, and was still sporting his beard. It was at this event that he publicly addressed his facial hair for the first time, after noting that President Trump's nickname for him recently "went from 'Lyin’ Ted' to 'Beautiful Ted.'"
"I gotta say, that new pet name felt like it really hit the mark," Cruz remarked. "Why else do you think I’m growing a beard?"
Dec. 5, 2018: Beard Gets Longer, Stronger
By Dec. 5, it was clear that Cruz's beard had become more robust.
, despite being "not that thick," Cruz's beard was "growing stronger," The Cut observed that while Jezebel pondered whether it would ultimately "get so long that it touches the ground, tangles around his legs, and trips him in the Senate cafeteria so his face goes right into a pie." Dec. 7-12, 2018: Public Attitude Shifts
As Cruz's beard celebrated its two-week birthday, some
earlier skeptics appeared shocked to find that they'd grown to like it.
Slate, Christina Cauterucci anguished over the "unwelcome semi-hotness of the Texas senator’s facial hair," acknowledging that despite its rough beginnings, Cruz's beard now gave his face "a defined jawline and its first-ever hints of ruggedness and affability." Esquire's Ben Boskovich wrote that Cruz, thanks to his beard, "looks human again." Even Chrissy Teigen acknowledged that the beard looked good. Jan. 3, 2019: Back To Reality Zach Gibson/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Cruz's beard enjoyed a good two weeks of praise in December. However, it wasn't long before the tide turned again, and the senator's beard once again became the object of scorn.
Boskovich wrote on Jan. 3 that Cruz's beard once again looked suboptimal, thanks to "a bad combination of over and under-grooming himself." Cauterucci agreed, noting that its shape was uneven and had recently developed curls. This, Cauterucci argued, made Cruz look like "a whimsical carnival barker or a Civil War general." Jan. 8, 2019: A New Challenger Enters The Arena Jan. 9, 2019: Beards Not Bombs Jan. 16, 2019: Cruz Records Instructional Video On Beard Growing
On Jan. 16, Cruz recorded a video called "How To Grow A Beard" for
the far-right news site the Daily Caller . It consisted of Cruz holding up a razor, saying "this is a razor," and instructing viewers to "stop using it."
"The rest is nature," Cruz concluded.
Where, and how long, Cruz's beard goes from here is anybody's guess, but it's taken us on a whirlwind journey so far that we won't soon forget.