As long as professional sports have been around, there have been interesting and entertaining players. In team sports, individualism can often be stifled, especially when it comes to fashion. Players must all wear the same uniform, so there is not much room for expression — except with hair.
Players often have sported interesting hairstyles, but these are typically obscured by hats, helmets, or headbands. Facial hair, however, is usually visible, so some athletes have decided over the years to grow some very interesting beards and mustaches.
Just like the rest of the world, facial hair fashions in sports come and go. Lots of old-timey baseball players from the 19th century like Will White and Old Hoss Radbourn had thick handlebar mustaches. Many athletes from the 1970s had sideburns, while those from the ’80s had Magnum, P.I.-style mustaches. More recently, long, thick beards seem to be in vogue. For instance, players like James Harden and Brian Wilson have adopted the mountain man look as their signature style.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed photos of professional athletes to determine the 50 players with the greatest facial hair in sports history.
Baseball players have an disproportionately high number of spots on this list for a few reasons. Chiefly, professional baseball has been around longer than basketball, hockey, or football, so there is a deeper history of players.
Football players aren’t as renowned for wild facial hair, possibly because mustaches and beards are obscured by face masks and chin straps, but players like Eric Weddle and Ryan Fitzpatrick still make the list with huge bushy beards.
Hockey players also make up much of the list, as they tend to take the hair on their heads and faces very seriously. Hockey is also responsible for one of the great facial hair traditions in sports — the playoff beard. It is believed that the New York Islanders dynasty of the early 1980s started the tradition of NHL players refusing to shave while playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Just about every hockey player now participates in this tradition, with varying levels of success. Some hockey players like Brent Burns keep long beards year-round, while others like Sidney Crosby can never get much facial hair to grow.
This list is by no means comprehensive. There have been more than 19,000 professional baseball players alone, and some pro athletes with exciting facial hair are bound to slip through the cracks or just not quite make the cut for the top 50. Players are listed alphabetically.
The teams listed for each player are in many cases not an exhaustive list of every franchise that he has played for. The teams listed in each player profile were determined by either how much time he spent on those teams compared to others, or where the player had his best statistical years. The player’s career was determined by the year in which he made his debut and the year in which he played his final game. Both team and career information came from the Sports Reference family of websites.