One expert declared: "There is a certain level of maturity that he's projecting with this beard, there's no doubt about it"

By Sean Neumann
January 09, 2020 09:48 AM

In the United States, President Donald Trump is facing an impeachment trial in the Senate and ongoing divisions over his decision to escalate the conflict with Iran by killing one of their most notorious military officials.

In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has grown a beard.

This isn’t exactly as silly as it seems: Trudeau, son of one of Canada’s most famous prime ministers (before he followed in his father’s footsteps) has not been shy about discussing what he considers his deftness with his own image — which helped launch him to international recognition.

But Trudeau, 48, entered 2020 both weaker and stronger than he could have been. He won re-election in the fall, overcoming notable controversies, but his party lost its majority in the Canadian House of Commons.

His new facial hair — a bit history-making, according to various outlets, as a Canadian leader had not sported a beard for many decades — made headlines and set-off speculation and jokes.

The tone was somewhere between tongue-in-cheek and throat-clearing.

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“[It’s] more of a mature look, especially with the gray coming through,” outside consultant Lynne Mackay told the BBC, adding, “There is a certain level of maturity that he’s projecting with this beard, there’s no doubt about it.”

“It’s an attempt by Trudeau to act the part of a mature statesman,” one user suggested on Twitter Tuesday. (“Isn’t it possible that it’s just a beard?” another asked.)

VICE, cheekiest, declared, “Justin Trudeau Has a Beard Now. What Does It Mean?”

And then of course from the Canadian Press: “Everything you need to know (and a few things you don’t) about Justin Trudeau’s beard.”

The prime minister’s official photographer started the whole thing when on Monday he shared a striking image of a salt-and-pepper-bearded Trudeau.

Trudeau, who appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone in 2017, has long taken the idea of his “brand” into consideration, according to an August profile in the The Guardian.

“There is not a single action that he took publicly that wasn’t considered, reconsidered and put out there in an attempt to eventually build the base that he would require to be prime minister,” political analyst Ian Capstick told the paper.

Capstick added that that he believed Trudeau (who grew up while his father was prime minister) has with his team “been carefully calculating every single entree of Mr. Trudeau into Canadian public life for the past 30 years.”

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As The Guardian noted, in 2012 Trudeau held a boxing match with a rival conservative lawmaker to help bolster his public perception. And he was successful.

“It wasn’t random,” Trudeau told Rolling Stone. “I wanted someone who would be a good foil, and we stumbled upon the scrappy, tough-guy senator from an Indigenous community.”
Trudeau called it “the right kind of narrative, the right story to tell.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Lucas Oleniuk/Getty Images

After he became prime minister in 2015, Trudeau — young, articulate, charismatic and handsome — was often paired in the media with President Barack Obama, his fellow liberal world leader. After Trump took office in 2017, Trudeau became a kind of foil.

Throughout, he has gone viral for all manner of minor things, like jogging shirtless and talking about quantum computing.

But he’s grappled with scandal as well, including repeated revelations about him wearing blackface and brownface while in costume when he was younger. He apologized.

More seriously, he was accused last year of intervening to prevent harsher penalties for a company charged with bribery. (He has said he was just trying to save jobs.)

In October, his Liberal Party won re-election, albeit with fewer seats.

Since Trudeau became the Liberal leader in 2013, he largely stuck to a clean-shaven look. And then this.

The Canadian Press, assessing the situation on Monday, found “his new beard is neatly trimmed and flecked liberally with grey. It seems to match Trudeau’s stated intention to take a lower profile, more businesslike approach to his second mandate, keeping the focus on concrete bread-and-butter initiatives and shifting the spotlight to his team of cabinet ministers.”