We recently created a custom Walt Whitman beard and bushy mustache for actor, director and singer John Slade. John performs his one man show “I Sing Walt Whitman” across the country.
In his own words:
“I Sing Walt Whitman! is part lecture and part Chautauqua-tent revival meeting — where people can hear Brother Walt singing, chanting, and rapping his hopeful and startlingly modern worldview.”
John Slade wearing the beard and mustache – the pieces are both human hair
Walt Whitman has one of the most iconic beards of the 19th century – he began growing it as a young man and it continued to grow longer and fuller throughout his life.
You can see the evolution of Whitman’s hair and beard through the later half of his life in the photo grouping above. While his grooming choices mirror contemporary trends in the earlier images, by the end of his life, he was seemingly content to enjoy a more natural and relaxed style of beard and hair. The photos above, and many more, can be found in the excellently organized media gallery of the Walt Whitman Archive.
The beard we created for John is based on photos of Walt Whitman taken during the 1860’s and early 1870’s, about a decade after his controversial anthology “Leaves of Grass” was published.
For us, the most dominant characteristics of Whitman’s beard are the volume and the the color striations. To ensure the beard looked and behaved as much like Whitman’s real beard as possible, we used a heavily textured human hair and carefully blended the white, ivory and dark brown tones. In addition to copying the distinctive color patterns, we also wanted to ensure the beard would match John’s own hair, and so we used his color as the baseline.
Slade with his wife Laurie
Recordings of John’s Whitman songs are available on cd or for immediate download here, along with John’s other albums. John tours “I Sing Walt Whitman” around the country, upcoming dates and locations are at his website. He would like Grammy Pro members to know that he was submitted through Ken Eros, Grammy Pro name “greenmanmusic”.
This was certainly one of our favorite projects – recreating such an iconic style and incorporating details and nuances while still making the piece look “at home” on the actor or interpreter is a particular specialty of ours. It’s such fun to help bring these Famous Figures to life!