It must be nice to have Washington's hairdresser at your side
February 14, 2016 10:56 AM   Subscribe

National Geographic's Robert Krulwich discusses George Washington’s Oh-So-Mysterious Hair (which was red, and not a wig!). Includes a set of delightfully-illustrated instructions for replicating Washington's signature look, just in case you want to look like a dollar bill.
posted by schmod (29 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
Redheads have been vastly overrepresented in the presidency: Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Van Buren, Coolidge, and Eisenhower. 14% of presidents; 2% of Americans.

It's our natural statemanship, it's carried on the red-hair gene.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:07 AM on February 14, 2016 [15 favorites]


You should close your eyes and see him fluffling in your own way.

It is possible that truer words have never been written about a President.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:15 AM on February 14, 2016 [7 favorites]


Another bonus we gingers have is that as we age our hair turns white, not grey. I mean, be honest, which Gandalf would you rather be?
posted by valkane at 11:21 AM on February 14, 2016


dolla bill?

i wanna be a fucking diamond
posted by Foci for Analysis at 11:26 AM on February 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


He also had blue eyes; the pairing of red hair and blue eyes is the rarest such color combination on earth.

Fear not, though -- those of us who have this trait do not look upon the rest of you with scorn or pity; like Washington, our sense of public service and duty to those less blessed than ourselves is too strong for such petty sentiments to long persist.
posted by kyrademon at 11:27 AM on February 14, 2016 [10 favorites]


Man, that's a lot of steps. Dude was pure Macaroni.
posted by Mr.Me at 11:32 AM on February 14, 2016 [14 favorites]


Don't fuck with guys that spend a lot of time on their hair. The ancient Spartans prided themselves on their hair, calling it "the cheapest of ornaments." Don't fuck with Spartans. They're egomaniacs with spears.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:05 PM on February 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Nice to see a post pre-Hamiltoned.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:06 PM on February 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


National Geographic's Robert Krulwich

Hah! I know him as Radiolab's Robert Krulwich. Had no idea he came from Nat Geo!
posted by panama joe at 12:07 PM on February 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


I would not say it's accurate to consider him as being from NG so much as they are one of his many publication outlets.

Didn't Jefferson have red hair and blue eyes too?

My genetic heritage is in the same culture group as both these guys. I had auburn hair, now mostly white.

I'm wearing it very long again, as I did fifteen years ago. These days when I pull it back the side curls just form naturally where the more-fragile white hair of age has snapped over the period of growth.

For reasons I now forget, I associate my reddish hair color with my approximate 3% Neandertal genome. Therefore, I assert Messrs George and Thomas are among the caveman elect.
posted by mwhybark at 12:17 PM on February 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Shoot, looks like neandertal and human red hair evolved independently in each genome.
posted by mwhybark at 12:30 PM on February 14, 2016


As for keeping the powder off one’s shoulders, how Washington did that—if he did do that—nobody could tell me.

I'm guessing that he just never washed his hair, it was oily as all get out and the oil absorbed the powder and adhered it. It seems like he was really big on wearing symbols of military authority & Spartanism and I get the feeling washing one's hair doesn't seem like something anyone would do back then; much less someone who was trying to make you feel like he just got back from spending several months in the wilderness.
posted by bleep at 12:51 PM on February 14, 2016


also maybe that's what the epaulets were for - so the dust wouldn't show on the dark uniform?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:54 PM on February 14, 2016


a red haired* washington was part of today's ham4ham


*er, red fur'd i guess.
posted by nadawi at 1:13 PM on February 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


Or maybe the powder did show up and people were to polite / awed to "notice."
posted by Monday at 2:51 PM on February 14, 2016


When you're twelve feet tall and made of radiation, who's going to point out some stray powder?
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:02 PM on February 14, 2016 [8 favorites]


Don't fuck with guys that spend a lot of time on their hair. The ancient Spartans prided themselves on their hair, calling it "the cheapest of ornaments." Don't fuck with Spartans.

Spartan male citizens were forbidden from learning any practical skills other than war. So, during down time, they prided themselves on their choral singing and dance competitions.
posted by ennui.bz at 3:06 PM on February 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm kind of imagining a new TV series that will be 50% 300 and 50% Glee.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:19 PM on February 14, 2016 [12 favorites]


Hair powder is still around, but now it's called dry shampoo. It indeed sticks to/absorbs the oil in the hair, preventing stringiness and providing big volume and a "dry" look (think big '80s hair). I daresay that Washington carried out his fluffing during or after the powdering phase, as the powder is exactly what facilitates effective fluffing. He undoubtedly did wash his hair, and the powder was part of the process. The powder rinses away with water, taking the oils and dirt with it.

Everyone always wants to assume that people from more than a hundred years or so ago were smelly beasts with no concept of hygiene, but in fact folks have pretty much always taken some pains to clean themselves, even before cleaning products were industrially produced and commercially marketed. Self-cleaning just took different cultural contexts before commodity capitalism: religious ablutions, health treatments (in medieval Europe), cosmetic primping in the eighteenth century, etc.
posted by Krawczak at 5:42 PM on February 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


I love how (probably because of Hamilton) I am finding such great presidential links all over the place these days. My blog is already quite full of related links to post tomorrow.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:30 PM on February 14, 2016


Everyone always wants to assume that people from more than a hundred years or so ago
Assume it or be told it over and over again. It's either this or "Actually bathing often is a modern thing that people never really did and don't have to do..."
posted by bleep at 9:44 PM on February 14, 2016


As for keeping the powder off one’s shoulders, how Washington did that—if he did do that—nobody could tell me.

The mistake here is thinking Washington had to do it himself, like you and I would, so gosh, where did he find the time?

Rich guys from this time had butlers, valets and, ahem, slaves, to handle this. They were never far away from people whose mission in life was assuring they're employers/owners looked good at all times. Powder on your jacket? There's a dude standing five feet away with a brush.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:49 AM on February 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


My stepfather's ancestor, Adolph Ulrich Wertmuller, painted this lovely portrait in 1795 of George Washington with powder sprinkled on his shoulders. It's in the Metropolitan Museum.
posted by nickyskye at 5:17 PM on February 15, 2016 [58 favorites]


Best of the Web right there, folks.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:50 PM on February 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


nicky! sweet!
posted by mwhybark at 7:15 PM on February 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


Everyone always wants to assume that people from more than a hundred years or so ago were smelly beasts with no concept of hygiene

I heard a woman talking on the radio the other day who had run an experiment where she didn't wash, but changed her linen under garment every day as the Victorians had done. She didn't get any comments about body odour even though she didn't tell anyone else that she was doing this (for three months IIRC). The issues of having a servant to do all that washing was brought up, not something everyone could afford!
posted by asok at 3:18 AM on February 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


I heard a woman talking on the radio the other day who had run an experiment where she didn't wash, but changed her linen under garment every day as the Victorians had done.

There's a writeup of that at Jezebel but it was about the Tudors, not the Victorians. Victorians had tin baths.
posted by sukeban at 3:58 AM on February 17, 2016


I am experimenting with tin undergarments.

And I love that picture of your redheaded step-ancestor, Nicky. He looks relatively comfortable. I'd bet he had his choppers out and soaking in a glass.
posted by pracowity at 3:16 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


pracowity, ow, those dentures! Poor Washington with his years of teeth misery! Frankly amazing he ever looked comfortable.
posted by nickyskye at 1:06 PM on February 18, 2016


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