The Beard Index: World Leaders 2014


By David Michael Newstead.

Originally, I set out to do the Beard Index, because I thought it would be interesting and amusing to compare the facial hair styles of current world leaders. I’d throw in a couple funny photographs and that would be about it. After looking over this stuff for a while though, the takeaway for me is that this is a very clear illustration of just how few world leaders are women. Now, I guess I was aware of that fact anyway, but certain comparisons really drive the point home.

For example, depending on who shaves and how they shave, there are possibly more world leaders with a goatee today than the total number of female heads of state. Now, presidents with goatees are not very common. That said, if you compare them to all the female presidents and prime ministers, it’s really too close to call. Meanwhile, leaders with moustaches and beards easily dwarf the handful of female presidents today, but this prominence of facial hair is a matter of location and culture, centered mainly in Africa and the Middle East. The high ranking leadership of Western countries is almost 100% clean-shaven and male. Globally, 47 heads of state have a moustache (2 of those also have a soul patch). 12 other leaders have some kind of beard. 4 others definitely have goatees. 4 others vary in their facial hair. And 2 leaders have thick stubble on a regular basis. Everyone else is clean-shaven.

Of course, this information can be viewed a number of ways. There is the sharp cultural divide between the clean-shaven West and everyone else. There are our collective perceptions about who is bearded and what we think of them. And then, there are the overwhelming gender ratios that reach across borders, even in comparatively progressive Western countries. (How many current female presidents are you capable of naming?)

Among the G-7 nations of top global economies, there is only 1 female head of state – Angela Merkel of Germany. Because of that, I think it might be worthwhile to revisit the Beard Index in the future to see what has changed and what hasn’t. Until then, the names below will fluctuate from elections, wars, and coups, but how many of them will ever reflect equality?

Middle East & North Africa
Syria – Bashar al-Assad
Saudi Arabia – King Abdullah
Qatar – Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani
Kuwait – Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah
Palestine – Mahmoud Abbas
UAE – Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Bahrain – King Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa
Algeria – Abdelaziz Bouteflika

Sub-Saharan Africa
Guinea – Alpha Conde
Seychelles – James Michel
Comoros – Ikililou Dhoinine
Rwanda – Paul Kagame
Malawi – Peter Mutharika
Mozambique – Armando Guebuza
Togo – Faure Gnassingbe
Cameroon – Paul Biya (Note – Also has soul patch)
Sudan – Omar al-Bashir
Congo – Denis Nguesso
Eritrea – Isaias Afwerki
Gabon – Ali Bongo Ondimba
Zambia – Michael Sata
Botswana – Ian Khama
Senegal – Macky Sall
Mauritania – Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz
Niger – Mahamadou Issoufou
Zimbabwe – Robert Mugabe (Note – Has a creepy Hitler-like moustache)
Burundi – Pierre Nkurunziza
Swaziland – King Mswati III
Uganda – Yoweri Museveni

The Pacific
Nauru – Baron Waqa
Kiribati – Anote Tong
Papua New Guinea – Peter O’Neill
Palau – Tommy Remengesau (Note – Also has soul patch)

The Americas
Dominican Republic – Danilo Sanchez
Dominica – Charles Savarin
Cuba – Raul Castro
Nicaragua – Daniel Ortega
Aruba – Mike Eman
Trinidad and Tobago – Anthony Carmona
Saint Lucia – Kenny Anthony
Antigua and Barbuda – Gaston Browne

Albania – Bujar Nishani
Hungary – Janos Ader
Belarus – Alexander Lukashenko

Central & South Asia
Pakistan – Mamnoon Hussain
Sri Lanka – Mahinda Rajapaksa
Azerbaijan – Ilham Aliyev

Middle East & North Africa
Oman – Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said
Iran – Hassan Rouhani
Djibouti – Ismail Omar Guelleh

India – Narendra Modi
Afghanistan – Hamid Karzai

Spain – King Felipe VI and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (Note – Both Bearded)
Bosnia and Herzegovina – Bakir Izetbegovic

Sub-Saharan Africa
Somalia – Hassan Sheikh Mohamud
South Sudan – Salva Kiir Mayardit

The Americas
Saint Kitts and Nevis – Denzil Douglas
Guyana – President Donald Ramotar and Prime Minister Sam Hinds (Note – Both Bearded)
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines – Ralph Gonsalves

Suriname – Desi Bouterse
Kenya – Uhuru Kenyatta
Cape Verde – Jorge Carlos Fonseca
Brunei – Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah

Morocco – King Mohammed VI
Jordan – King Abdullah II
Democratic Republic of Congo – Joseph Kabila
Benin – Thomas Yayi Boni

Lesotho – King Letsie III
Iraq – Nouri al-Maliki (Note – Recently Deposed)