If you’re looking for a stylish facial hair feature, a goatee will do well to shape your face. This short, stylish type of beard has been popular with many men throughout history. Their goatees have become associated with the men’s images and have served as a reminder of their historical importance. We’ve put together this list of famous goatees to inspire you.
Before we begin, there are a few words of explanation. The term “goatee” technically refers to only hair under the chin; however, the common usage of the word also includes a mustache that may or may not connect to it. Stylistic variations create forms such as the Van Dyke, the Circle Beard, and the Musketeer.
To have a beard style named after you is quite an honor. The Flemish artist Sir Anthony Van Dyck painted his way into fame in the 1600s through his talent to capture detailed expressions in realistic form. This made him a desired portrait painter for the nobility and the aristocrats of the day. He painted King Charles I of England, who himself displayed a regal goatee. Van Dyke was equally proud of his own beard. It featured a mustache with pointed ends unattached to a short pointed beard on the chin. Van Dyke was apparently proud of his beard and displayed it prominently in his own self-portrait.
The French painter always wore a close beard or goatee in his self-portraits. Van Gogh is best known for his impressionist landscape paintings, such as Starry Night and Sunflowers. These works of art captured the colorful effects of light upon nature. While Van Gogh’s labors produced excellent art, they came at a personal price. He likely suffered from bipolar disorder, which caused him to have times of high temper. In one of these moments, he managed to lose an ear. Some art historians claim the injury was a self-inflicted wound, while still others claim he sustained it during a fight with another artist. In his self-portrait with sunflowers, his ear is bandaged but a beard remains.
Spain had its own goateed genius in the form of painter Diego Velazquez. Like Van Dyke, he began painting in realistic mode but soon developed a unique style that incorporated varying perspectives of angles in relation to shades of light. He also inserted symbolic ideas into his paintings to further explore the significance of the subjects he was painting. Of course, when you are painting the king’s family, it creates a special situation. Velazquez succeeded though in his masterpiece Las Meninas, where viewers see a cast of characters, including a princess, dwarf jesters, teachers, and royalty. All subjects appear at different angles, so it is hard to determine the focus. In the mirror, we may even see Velazquez himself painting the scene; but once again, the lighting and perspective may be deceptive. What is clear though is that Velazquez displays a nice goatee.
The father of the first model novel in the European tradition often sported a beard, according to some pictures of the time. So naturally, his literary brainchild needed to have a goatee also. In statues around Spain, artists have depicted Don Quixote with a short, pointed beard under the chin and a long drooping mustache under the lip in the country style of that period. While Don Quixote may not have been an exemplary groomer, his adventurous spirit and active imagination make up for it. In one passage of the story, he gets anointed with joint balm as part of his delusion of becoming a knight. Perhaps, he could get anointed with beard oil next time.
Perhaps the most internationally recognizable goatee comes from the fast food icon of Colonel Sanders from KFC. The smiling face on the bucket was a real person. Harland Sanders, who grew up in Kentucky, received the official title of honorary Colonel by two Kentucky governors for his achievements in the food industry. His goatee and outfit of a white Southern suit with a string tie and brimmed hat were real too, not just an advertising scheme.
In his official state portrait, Lenin wore one of the best known historical goatees ever. Unfortunately, that is the best that can be said of the tyrant whose ideas formed half of the political philosophy of Lenin-Marxism, or Communism as we know it. His contributions stressed the need for a unified party to direct people toward Communism and away from capitalism. The dictator Lenin took control of the Bolshevik Revolution, which had earlier overthrown the reign of the tsar, and forced the country into civil war led by a Red Army that ultimately led to the creation of the Soviet Union. A truly bad guy, but with a good beard.
The dazzling gold and brilliant lapis lazuli of the funerary mask of King Tut is one of the most valuable treasures of art and archaeology. And at the end of his face there is a long curved beard that could be considered a goatee. While we do not know if Tutankhamun had an actual beard, we do know the pharaohs used false beards to signify regal power. In death, the beard curved outward to indicate an association with the religious afterlife.
King Tut’s goatee still makes news today. A worker knocked it off in 2014 and hastily glued it back in place–but with the wrong glue. Professional outside restorers have since performed a successful beard transplant on the mask, so Tut has regained his glorious goatee.
All Americans recognize the white goatee of their bearded relative Uncle Sam. The historical icon had its origin in U.S. history around the time of the War of 1812. Sam Wilson, a meat deliverer, labeled his packages “U.S.” The soldiers jokingly called him uncle, so the name Uncle Sam stuck. Uncle Sam served as a political caricature at different times until gaining fame in 1917 from posters for war recruitment efforts. James Montgomery Flagg created a poster that called out “I Want You.” There’s no ignoring his direct stare and the finger pointing at you to take action. His white beard and mustache suggest wisdom, and his eyes display a serious call to duty that many men followed through World War II and beyond.
The infamously vicious Asian warrior known for his conquering army always wore some form of facial hair into battle. No one really knows what his beard actually looked like though since he never permitted anyone to capture his image in art. However, posthumous statutes, silk screen prints, and paintings of him show a variety of beards, of which the goatee is one style. He was a fierce and ruthless commander who spared no person, except those needed to rebuild his empire. Khan is credited with expanding the Mogul territory through China, Korea, and even Syria, uniting the conquered countries into one empire. Because of this, he achieved the title “Genghis Khan,” or universal ruler over the people. In fact, his influence is so great that approximately 1 in 2,000 men share his DNA.
The most (in)famous psychologist of the 20th century dressed neatly and wore a tidy Austrian-German goatee beard during his career as a psychoanalyst. In his time, he listened to patients and their dreams in order to help them find the source of their problems. It turns out the mind was at war with the conscious and subconscious desires, which somehow always came back to sex. No parent or object was safe from his psychoanalytic theory. Water, circles, and cigars suddenly took on new meanings. Whether Freud’s beard was a conscious decision or a latent expression of the unconscious, no one can know for sure. But the fact that his look still survives today makes his goatee a historical symbol (and apparently, a popular disguise for Halloween too).
The Civil War era was the time of epic beards. Soldiers and generals alike wore hardcore, full, natural beards. General George Custer grew a dapper goatee with a big bushy mustache. He achieved military success but is remembered only for his failure. While he wasn’t the best military student, his ability to take charge of a situation and lead the way helped him rise in rank to general in just a short time. He successfully served during the Battle of Bull Run and was then commissioned on other military campaigns. However, we remember Custer mainly for his defeat, or “Last Stand,” at Little Big Horn River, where he attempted to overtake a village of the Lakota tribe of Native Americans. His headstrong ways led him to abandon reliance on the other leader and lead his division of troops into an unneeded massacre that ended his life and that of many troops on both sides of the battle.
“It was the best of beards . . . .” The consummate British author, known for his portrayal of underdog characters in a harsh world, wore a goatee with a long bushy base. He was a prolific writer of many novels (Great Expectations, Oliver Twist) and short stories (A Christmas Carol). Serial publications of his episodic stories, such as Pickwick Papers, gained him fame and money, the later owing to the fact that he got paid per word. Therefore, it was to his advantage (and the disadvantage of millions of schoolchildren in English class) that he offered detailed descriptions of every character and event. After all, it takes money to keep a beard stylish.
The Beatnik poet Allen Ginsberg wears a goatee, like several other Beatnik poets with beret hats. He was part of the literary movement that defied the traditional literary style. Instead, it posited an intellectual self-realization as the vehicle of communication. Ginsberg’s famous poetic work Howl focuses upon the individual’s rebellion against societal norms and the embracement of liberating personally expressive creation. It embodies the zeitgeist of his generation of emerging artists, writers, and philosophers who eventually came to form the hippie movement.
The goatee has endured through hundreds of years and has been worn by hundreds of influential men. Perhaps it gave them power to pursue their actions, or maybe great men just made a great decision to create one. While we can’t promise growing a goatee will make you famous like rulers of the past, we can say that it will make you more stylish for the future.
Know of other famous men with goatees? Tell us here.