Argentines are no strangers to furry faces. Long, wide, dark, light, thin, curly, straight and twisted beards crowd the streets as well as the history books.
We at the Argentina Independent decided to take a deeper look, bringing you a round-up of the country’s greatest whiskers.
To compile this list, each beard was analysed with three elements in mind.
First, we judged the look. Size, shape, colour and originality all played a role in who made the cut.
Secondly, we took into account the position the men held while they had their beards. It can be difficult for anyone to be taken seriously with a furry beast growing out of his face, far less a president.
Lastly, the notoriety of the beard itself was important. Although football legend Diego Maradona grew a beautiful salt-and-pepper beard, few people associate him with it.
With these guidelines in mind, it is our pleasure to introduce the Top 5 Beards of Argentina.
Tiempo Argentino has referred to him as “the political expert with the long beard.”
A quick internet search finds adult bloggers lamenting, “when I grow up (?) I want to have Rinesi’s beard, but what trouble it must be to maintain it.”
With thick, dark bristles that rival those of Socrates, the political scientist Eduardo Rinesi takes our top spot.
Rinesi has managed to garner great success despite (or because of) his grand beard. He is the rector of the National University of General Sarmiento, and has penned quite a long list of books.
Born in Rosario, Santa Fe in 1964, Rinesi has had lots of time to groom his luxurious facial hair. According to Tiempo Argentino, he hasn’t shaved since he finished his “colimba”, the year-long military service that was obligatory until 1995.
Ernesto “Che” Guevara
Che’s organic scruff is by far the skimpiest beard on our list, but it is also the most well-known.
“Guerrillero Heroico” – that oh-so-famous photo of Che – was named a symbol of the 20th century and the world’s most famous photo by the Maryland Institute College of Art. The Victoria and Albert Museum says the picture has been reproduced more than any other image in photography.
How popular would that image be if the Argentine revolutionary had been clean-shaven?
Not only is the image printed on T-shirts, but the beard has been copied around the world. Guevara’s life became a symbol – and a part of that symbol was the beard.
What university would be complete without its crew of wannabe revolutionaries, all sporting red-star hats and their own versions of Che’s face fuzz? El Comandante may have been killed in Bolivia 45 years ago, but his beard will live for years to come on the faces of rebellious youth.
Julio Argentino Roca
According to a Latin saying, “Barba non facit philosophum”. The beard does not make the philosopher.
But could a beard make a villain? Perhaps.
Take former president Julio Argentino Roca, for example. Sure, as president he started a civil registry, made primary education free, and oversaw a state-controlled economy that boomed. But while sporting his Van Dyke of Evil – which you can see on the $100 bill – Roca terrorised the Argentine countryside as part of the Conquest of the Desert. His policies led to the killing and displacement of thousands of indigenous people in the 1870s.
During his second run as president the Residency Law was passed, allowing trade union leaders to be expelled from the country. Remember that obligatory military service our top beard Rinesi served? That was Roca’s doing. That puffy white chin was top dog when the conscription law was enacted in 1901.
If a beard didn’t exist, can it make the Top 5 list?
While it never really had a place in time nor space, Martín Fierro’s beard lives in the minds of millions who have read José Hernández’s poems El Gaucho Martín Fierro and La Vuelta de Martín Fierro.
The gaucho Fierro was forced to leave his impoverished-but-romanticised lifestyle when he was drafted to serve at the border. He deserted and tried to return home. Difficulties ensue.
Fierro was an immediate success when El Gaucho came out in 1872, and the two poems together have been called Argentina’s equivalent to Dante’s Divine Comedy.
But where would he be without his beard? In the Pampas with a cold face.
You could argue that Carlos Menem’s sideburns were not an official beard, but the presidential chops measure up in terms of size, quality and recognisability. There was more hair in his skunk-coloured cheek decorations than some men find on their heads, putting these puppies on our Top 5 list.
First elected as governor in 1983, Menem’s sideburns were the most visible part of his flamboyant style. Elected as president in 1989 and serving in office until 1999, “las patillas” slowly shrunk into a muted state – but his attitude did not.
At the turn of the millennium, the former president started to scoot around in a red Ferrari, married a Miss Universe model, and fathered a child in 2003 at the ripe old age of 73. Corruption charges have littered his résumé over the last decade, along with a recent obstruction of justice charge related to the 1994 Jewish community centre bombing in Buenos Aires.
These days, Menem’s jowls are bare – but pictures will always stand as proof of the former president’s fancy facial hair.