Justin Trudeau is a picture-conscious person

Justin Trudeau and the Politics of Facial Hair

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has returned from winter holidays with a fresh beard. After a photo of the prime minister was posted by his official photographer, he joined a growing list of politicians whose facial hair has drawn fascination.

In the picture published by Mr. Trudeau, he stares seriously into the center, revealing a jawline and chin covered in salt-and-pepper hair.

It's not the first time the Canadian politician has been given a line of whiskers.

Before becoming Liberal leader and Prime Minister, he grew a memorable mustache and goatee combo for prostate cancer charity Movember.

Facial hair is rare enough in modern politics that people notice it when a political leader decides to grow a beard.

In some parts of the world, facial hair can mean a lot more than just personal style. The politics of beards have been very controversial in Egypt in recent years - in a nation with long, secular traditions, beards were seen as a symbol of Islamist hardliners.

In the US, beards have been viewed as a political shutdown for voters and a refuge for the defeated candidate for decades.

Former US presidential candidate Al Gore made headlines after he reappeared with a beard in 2001 after his bitter election defeat. It has been called the “Exile Beard” and has been subjected to extensive analysis.

Now they seem to have a moment.

When former US House spokesman Paul Ryan unveiled new stubble on Instagram in 2015, he noted that he was the first speaker in nearly 100 years to wear a beard and his decision to ditch his clean-shaven look caused quite a stir.

Only about 5% of members of the U.S. Congress had beards or mustaches at the time, according to research by Rebekah Herrick, professor of political science at Oklahoma State University.

The beard of Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who first appeared in 2018, has been fascinating the internet for weeks.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi is known for his distinctive white beard. The country's media took note when 18 of its 58 ministers were inducted into his new cabinet last summer and they all wore beards.

In Britain, when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, her aversion to facial hair led to allegations of “pogonophobia” - defined as extreme aversion to beards.

More recently, outgoing Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn became the first bearded man to lead a British political party since 1908.

In Canada, the last three leaders of the country's left-wing federal New Democrats had facial hair, including current leader Jagmeet Singh, an observant Sikh who wears both a turban and a beard as part of his faith.

However, Singh's predecessor, Thomas Mulcair, faced demands to shave his trademark full beard when he took over the leadership of the party, as reported by Globe and Mail.

The last Canadian Prime Minister to wear facial hair was the mustached Sir Robert Borden at the beginning of the 20th century.

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It's not clear whether Mr Trudeau's beard will become a fixture or if he will shave before MPs return to Ottawa in late January.

Temporary or not, the post-holiday beard is "more of a mature look, especially when the gray comes through," Lynne Mackay of consulting firm Mackay Byrne Group told the BBC.

"It's an established look," said the image advisor, who has worked with numerous Canadian politicians but not with Mr. Trudeau.

"There's a certain degree of maturity that he projects with this beard, there's no doubt about that."

The 48-year-old prime minister rose to power as the new face in Canadian federal politics and the world stage in 2015.

Always an image-conscious politician, the photo of the bearded Mr Trudeau posted by his team contrasts with his youthful political brand.

After a series of political crises and scandals, he recently faced a tough re-election campaign in which he retained power but missed a majority in the House of Commons.

"He doesn't look so young with it [beard]" said Ms. Mackay. " He definitely looks more like a seasoned statesman. "

She noticed that facial hair is something that is coming into vogue and has seen a resurgence in recent years.

As a consultant in the business world in the 1980s, she said the shaved look promises openness and integrity.

"Things have come this far since then," she said. "Beards are very acceptable in the business world, so I think it will be a natural transition if they move into politics."

It's also one of the few ways for men to express themselves with their style, "and show a little bit of individualism," she said.