The First Rug?
April 25, 2006 9:18 AM   Subscribe

Has any United States President ever been known to wear a wig?

I know that it used to be in fashion in the late 18th/early 19th centuries, when fashion dictated that men of privelege wore wigs. So -- is there any president, say, since the Civil War who's had a toupee? If yes, bonus question: did it ever fall off in public?
posted by graymouser to Law & Government (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you had never asked this question, I would never have googled for the answer, and never would have found this. Thank you.

I also learned the following:

John Adams, wore a wig which, it was said, he hurled to the ground in anger when his cabinet displeased him. Thomas Jefferson wore his reddish hair natural and his successor, James Madison, powdered his receding locks. By the time of Andrew Jackson's election in 1828, most men wore their hair short to medium in length and natural in color. Vanity also played a role in the choice to wear a wig or not, and former Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin was described in 1832 as wearing "an ugly wig" that was intended to hide his baldness.

Finally, I found a delightful article about presidents and their beards.

Oh, I'm sorry, were you looking for an actual answer to your question? Yeah, I got nothing.
posted by ND¢ at 9:33 AM on April 25, 2006

That picture turned my stomach.
posted by speedo at 10:35 AM on April 25, 2006

I can't find a citation to back me up, but I'm fairly certain the answer to your question is "No." When you consider that many of the Presidents during that time had very obvious bald spots (or, like Eisenhower, were almost completely bald), it seems unlikely any of them had toupees. If any of them did, though, certainly none of them ever had his fall off in public, as that would have been a story not soon forgotten.

What I find most interesting about Presidential trivia regarding hair is that the last President with any facial hair was William Howard Taft, who left office in 1913.
posted by cerebus19 at 10:35 AM on April 25, 2006

That's a terrific article about beards, ND¢. You should post it to the front page.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:18 AM on April 25, 2006

That picture turned my stomach.

Interesting observation from someone with your user name!
posted by LarryC at 11:25 AM on April 25, 2006

You would have to look into it further, but I think Taft might be your best bet. From what I've read the tradition of wigs in US courtrooms was dropped within a few decades of independence. In a charming anachronism, though, the Solicitor General still wears 19th century garb even today when arguing before the supreme court. This does not include a wig today, not sure about before.

Taft was the only man to ever be President and Chief Justice; He was also solicitor general, the first civilian chief executive of the Philippines, and secretary of war. (It says something about us that most people only ever remember that he broke a bathtub...)

This was getting pretty late to be wearing wigs, but based on the fact that he spent so much time in courtrooms before (and after - this is the remarkable thing. he was chief justice nearly a decade AFTER he was the president) he was president, it seems like he might have worn one at some point. I imagine there are some traditionalists in the northeast who kept it up for longer.

He also was apparently dean of law at U of Cincinnatti, and I am pretty sure wigs are included in academic regalia at least some places. He also apparently was in Skull and Bones. I am not familiar with all the purported bizzare initiations they do so perhaps that's worth looking into, wouldn't satisfy the public requirement though.

That's about the extent of my knowledge, though, and I had to go to wikipedia for quite a bit of refreshing, so I'm just guessing. Neat question though.
posted by oxonium at 12:43 PM on April 25, 2006

There's also Miss Polly Bergen, who has played the role of President and once had a well-known line of wigs, and who bears a strong resemblance to someone who may have taken the reins for a recent CIC late in his reign, and her hair invited a famous crack by Johnny Carson ...
posted by rob511 at 5:16 PM on April 25, 2006

Now that the question has scrolled off the front page, I feel free to inform you that Millard Fillmore was the last president who did not wear a wig but in fact was a Whig.
posted by SPrintF at 9:22 PM on April 25, 2006

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