Toward the end of his life, the 36th president of the United States thrived his hair long—much prefer the youths who protested his strategy in Vietnam. But why?


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Long prior to Donald Trump’s wisps of cotton candy bruburned the door frames of the Oval Office, many type of Amerideserve to pcitizens had actually memorable hairstyles: George Washington’s powdered tresses, Andrew Jackson’s unruly mane, Abraham Lincoln’s stolid chinstrap.

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Yet the follicular traditions of some retired poccupants reprimary woefully underappreciated. This week though, thanks to a photo that made the rounds virtual, I acquired to experience the joy that is 1972 Lyndon B. Johnchild hair:


LBJ in retirement on his ranch, last summer of his life, this week 1972: #LBJL pic.twitter.com/nWdVqjM5iT

— Michael Beschloss (

A long-haired LBJ—at that time in America’s political and also cosmetological history—is a amazing point for a couple of factors. Hair has constantly been political, whether lengthy or brief, but the late 1960s and also early 1970s were truly a time as soon as one’s do identified their location in a deeply separated society.

I had actually to understand what had actually compelled Johnkid to begin rocking those locks. And, as it so happens, a search revealed the explacountry in a story from the July 1973 issue of this extremely magazine:


So Johnkid endured the election in silence, swallowing his nitroglycerin taballows to thwart constant chest pains, endorsing McGovern with a hill country weekly newspaper, meeting cordially via the candiday at the ranch. The newsfiles confirmed a startling photo of Johnboy, his hair nearly shoulder-length. Former aide Bob Hardesty takes credit for this advance. “We were functioning together someday,” Hardesty recalls, “and also he shelp, in passing, ‘Robert, you need a haircut.’ I told him, ‘Mr. President, I’m letting my hair prosper so no one will have the ability to mistake me for those SOB’s in the White House.’ He looked startled, so I explained, ‘You know, that bunch around Nixon—Haldeman, Ehrlichman—they all have very short hair.’ He nodded. The following time I observed him his hair was prospering over his collar.”


Beyond the cinjury of this quiet personal protest, what struck me most upon reading this was the function LBJ himself had played in the national politics of that option. The Vietnam War, the defining issue of the moment, similarly defined hairlayouts in America—especially among young men. Military demands sorted the buzz cuts from the bohemians. So it’s striking that Johnkid, the president who’d escalated the war, would certainly style himself in the fashion of Hair’s draft dodgers.

The picture likewise left me wondering around Johnson’s thoughts in those last months before he died of a heart strike in January 1973. For a true examination, we have the occupational of Michael Beschloss, that, beyond tweeting the photo of LBJ that I observed this week, has written 2 publications on Johnson’s White House tapes (and also unprefer me hasn’t only listened to the finest tape). I likewise recommend the previously mentioned piece from The Atlantic, which published the very same month that taping system became recognized to Watergate investigators.

The last days of Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency

Perhaps that examination and the environment of the country at the moment sell some insight into LBJ’s Lebowskian locks. Couple of ex-poccupants have broken the mold as notably as Johnkid, but even fewer experienced what he did in retirement.

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From his Texas ranch in the middle of a bitterly separated nation, Johnchild can just watch as a guy that might have actually conspired via a foreign power to win the election presided over his heritage, and functioned to undermine the examination right into his campaign. Not many kind of of us could understand what that was like, so I’d say the guy deserved to let his hair out a little bit.