Toward the finish of his life, the 36th chairman of the joined States grew his hair long—much prefer the youths who protested his strategy in Vietnam. However why?


Long prior to Donald Trump’s wisps of cotton candy brushed the door frames the the Oval Office, plenty of American presidents had memorable hairstyles: George Washington’s powdered tresses, Andrew Jackson’s unruly mane, Abraham Lincoln’s stolid chinstrap.

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Yet the follicular heritages of some retired presidents remain woefully underappreciated. This main though, thanks to a picture that make the ring online, I obtained to endure the joy that is 1972 lindon B. Johnson hair:

LBJ in retirement on his ranch, critical summer that his life, this week 1972: #LBJL

— Michael Beschloss (

A long-haired LBJ—at the time in America’s political and also cosmetological history—is a impressive thing for a few reasons. Hair has always been political, whether long or short, however the late 1960s and early 1970s were truly a time as soon as one’s do defined their place in a deeply split culture.

I had to know what had compelled Johnson to start rocking those locks. And, together it therefore happens, a find revealed the explanation in a story native the July 1973 worry of this very magazine:

So Johnson suffered the election in silence, swallowing his nitroglycerin tablet computers to thwart continual chest pains, endorsing McGovern with a hill nation weekly newspaper, meeting cordially v the candidate in ~ the ranch. The newspapers showed a startling snapshot of Johnson, his hair virtually shoulder-length. Previous aide Bob Hardesty takes credit transaction for this development. “We to be working with each other one day,” Hardesty recalls, “and that said, in passing, ‘Robert, you need a haircut.’ ns told him, ‘Mr. President, ns letting my hair thrive so nobody will be able to mistake me because that those SOB’s in the White House.’ the looked startled, so ns explained, ‘You know, the bunch around Nixon—Haldeman, Ehrlichman—they all have very short hair.’ that nodded. The following time I witnessed him his hair was farming over his collar.”

Beyond the charm of this quiet personal protest, what win me most upon analysis this was the duty LBJ himself had actually played in the national politics of that choice. The Vietnam War, the defining worry of the time, an in similar way defined hairstyles in America—particularly among young men. Military requirements sorted the buzz cut from the bohemians. So it’s striking that Johnson, the president who’d escalated the war, would format himself in the fashion the Hair’s draft dodgers.

The image likewise left me wondering about Johnson’s think in those last months before he passed away of a heart assault in January 1973. Because that a true examination, we have the job-related of Michael Beschloss, who, past tweeting the picture of LBJ that I saw this week, has actually written two books on Johnson’s White house tapes (and unlike me hasn’t just listened to the finest tape). I likewise recommend the previously mentioned piece native The Atlantic, which published the very same month the taping system became known to Watergate investigators.

The critical days of lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency

Perhaps the investigation and the setting of the nation at the time offer some insight into LBJ’s Lebowskian locks. Few ex-presidents have damaged the mold as significantly as Johnson, however even fewer knowledgeable what the did in retirement.

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From his Texas ranch in the center of a bitterly split country, Johnson could only watch as a man who may have actually conspired through a international power to victory the choice presided end his legacy, and also worked to undermine the investigation into his campaign. Not many of us could know what that was like, so I’d say the man deserved come let his hair out a bit.