It might seem impossible to celebrate both No Shave November and the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, but Cincinnati natives Julia and Anna Hider have just the solution.
Their blog-turned-book Badass Civil War Beards showcases the best facial hair the war had to offer, from the most recognized politicians to unidentified soldiers. There are many aspects of 1860s America that have thankfully vanished over the last century-and-a-half, but today’s modern man can learn plenty from the epic facial styles of Union and Confederate soldiers.
CityBeat recently sat down with Julia and Anna Hider to discuss their new book and all things beard related.
CityBeat: Where did you get the idea for the blog?
Julia Hider: I was watching a History Channel documentary about the Lincoln assassination, and I just noticed that everybody had crazy facial hair, and so I texted Anna and I said, ‘Hey, we’re gonna write a blog about this, will you go set one up?’ and she did. And she picked out the name and…here we are!
CB: Did it take off pretty quickly?
Anna Hider: I just have a personal Tumblr for stupid pictures, like dogs and stuff. We started getting followers pretty quickly, I was kind of surprised — there are obviously lots of people on Tumblr that have more followers than us, but I was surprised by the history fandom — I guess you would say — of Tumblr, and how many history nerds there are on there.
CB: Even though you were at different schools [Ohio State and Syracuse], did you collaborate on it the whole time?
AH: We each did one post a day.
CB: And how did it get on BuzzFeed?
AH: I did that! But the thing is, it was a community post, but it made it on the front page of buzzfeed.com
JH: So Anna just wrote it.
AH: And I just sent it out on the Internet.
JH: And the community editors liked it, so they promoted it to the front of the community page, then I guess more editors saw it and liked it and so they put it on the front page of Buzzfeed, which is impressive for a community post.
AH: It was like the first time they had done anything like that, so I’m like, ‘This is easy.’ It was actually my second Buzzfeed [post]; my first one was called, “9 Giant Rocks That Look Like Willies.”
JH: I really think Buzzfeed helped us get the [book] deal.
CB: And what made you want to turn it into a book?
JH: I first thought of it as a coffee table book, but I switched to the blog because it’s easier to do. But I was on Tumblr one day and saw that Chronicle...
AH: It’s like the biggest indie book publisher.
JH: ...out of San Francisco, I saw that they were having a contest and they were looking for the next Tumblr blog to turn into a book, and they wanted to have this contest so we entered it. And we didn’t win, but we got shortlisted, and that’s how we got it out there that we were interested in publishing a book, but we didn’t get the book deal for another year.
AH: It hasn’t even been a year, it was like mid-November of last year.
CB: Was it hard turning it into a book?
JH: Not really because we had a lot of stuff to draw on. When I write an everyday post, I normally find [photos] on Wikipedia because it’s easier to click through and you find one person, and that links to another person, and that links to another person…But we went through the Library of Congress to write the book, so all the pictures are from the Library and you can have the rights to those because they’re over 150 years old.
AH: And they’re in the public domain. There are tons that we had never seen before, like unidentified soldiers, doing weird stuff. There were two guys holding pipes up to each other, and we’re like, ‘We had never seen this before. This is incredible.’
JH: There’s a good mix of stuff that was popular on the blog or stuff that we really liked, and there’s also a good amount of new stuff, too.
CB: If you had to pick a side, who had better beards? The North or the South?
AH: This one constantly torments me, because I know people are going to ask this. I want to say the Confederates, but it’s probably the Union.
JH: I feel like it has to be the Union because they were more urban and cosmopolitan.
AH: And they had Ambrose Burnside, they had Abe Lincoln, they had tons of really creative stuff.
JH: The North just had way more people in general. I think that’s part of it.
CB: Do you think crazy beards like that will ever make a comeback?
JH: I think they kind of are.
CB: It’s kind of like the hipster look. Is it a bad thing, though?
AH: Of course not!
JH: You can express yourself through your facial hair.
AH: Everyone looks good in a beard.
CB: I’ve tried. Last year I did No Shave November and it was terrible.
CB: So do you have a most badass Civil War beard?
JH: I mean I really like Ambrose Burnside, but I also like when people tried to copy him. Sometimes it didn’t go so well. This one guy in the book, Gabriel Rains, it just doesn’t look good on him. It just looks bad.
AH: I really like Joe Revere, because he had a normal beard then he waxed it into like three points. I don’t know why you would do that, but he did and it looks really cool. Or Roswell Ripley, who just had the biggest mustache ever, and it’s kind of gross looking.
CB: Is there any other period of time where you think beards would rival [the Civil War]?
AH: Maybe caveman times.
JH: I think that’s really the only other time.
CB: But they couldn’t shave, so that’s really sort of unfair.
JH: You could sharpen a rock so it’s sharp enough to shave, right?
CB: So do you still post on the blog?
JH: Yea, I think it was important to keep posting because I didn’t want to make our followers feel like we had abandoned them because we were trying to write a book.
AH: It wouldn’t make sense to stop. We want more people to find out about it, and start growing beards of their own.
CB: Do you have any next steps, plans after this?
JH: We don’t have anything solid.
AH: But if we could write another book, it might be about ladies, like Badass Civil War Babes.
JH: Because we’ve been looking at guys’ faces every single day for almost three years, and I kind of get sick of it. I try to bring in ladies whenever I can, but it’s not that often. We’d like to give them some attention.
Julia and Anna Hider launch the release of Badass Civil War Beards tonight at 7 p.m. at Joseph-Beth Booksellers. For some inspiration on growing your own badass beard, check out their blog at badasscivilwarbeards.tumblr.com.