15. Ambrose Burnside’s facial hair has been copied by everyone from the Kaiser to the King
Ambrose Everett Burnside was a soldier, businessman, inventor and politician. For many, however, he was simply a facial hair pioneer. After all, this was the man who gave the world sideburns. Even to this day, men around the world follow Burnside’s lead and craft their beard like he did. Indeed, over the years, his distinctive style has been copied by everyone from Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany right through to Elvis Presley.
Of course, it’s likely that Burnside himself would have preferred to have been remembered for his other notable achievements. The Indiana native, who was born in 1824, graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1843 and then served south of the border. After a largely-unsuccessful spell in business, he re-joined the army and led Union troops as a general in the Civil War. After that, he went back into business, mainly in the railroad sector, and then into politics.
It’s not clear when exactly Burnside started developing his iconic style of facial hair. However, his sideburns were prominent in photos taken while he was in political office. He served three terms as the Governor of Rhode Island, from 1866 to 1869, and then one term as a Senator. Throughout this, he sported his sideburns – indeed, some observers noted that, since they were almost purely white, his whiskers made him look much older than he actually was.
Burnside died in 1881 at the age of just 57. By the time of his death, the facial hair style he sported was still called ‘burnsides’. Many men, especially those who regarded him as a Civil War hero, copied the look, keeping their chins smooth while joining the hair from the ears to the mustache area. Within a few years, however, the syllables were reversed, giving us the term sideburns, which is still used to this day.