The Eyebrows of Australian Prime Ministers (1939-2013), Ranked
When it comes to building trust with an audience of 25 million, eye contact can be the difference between people submitting to you or turning to other heads of state non-governmental, such as Ian Huey Hewitson or the Bi-Lo folder. The eyes have a captivating power. If the eyes are the windows to the soul, then the brows are the eyebrow-like decor that perches above those transcendent windows, like taxidermy or birthday garland with sequins.
Australian prime ministers have always been assembled to the strictest of codes, making for a fairly easy model to follow. Man. White. Man. White. Disappeared at sea. Male. White. Man. White. With such predictability, it can be hard to tell the Anthonys from the Tonys, the Roberts from the Bobs. But that’s only if you’re not careful. As we know, eyebrows are the very things that cover the windows to the soul and therefore can tell you almost everything you need to know about a ruler.
So, which prime ministers had the eyebrows to trap a nation? Put it down to Australia’s geographic isolation or less presence on the international stage, but generally speaking the country’s leaders have not bought into changing aesthetic trends. As such, their eyebrows will need to be evaluated against other markers. Do they excite? Do they seduce? Do they make me want to kill something?
A note before continuing. I don’t want to spoil the custard before it’s creamy, but it’s come to my attention that the highest ranked brows on this list belong to the leaders who have held the position the longest. Is this confirmation bias or is this yet another case of ‘the shorter the eyebrows the shorter the term’ than the shortest Australian Prime Minister, Frank Forde – her reign ended before your first romance of year 9, oh yes it did – had simple streaks above her eyes?
5. Gough Whitlam
In elementary school, my understanding of Gough Whitlam went so far as to figure out that he said something pretty big about the queen. Either he hated her or he loved her – I could never be sure. I have no doubt that my schooling gave me the political know-how I needed at this pivotal stage of youth, but I am sure that I was never shown a picture of him. Because if they had, there’d be no way I’d succumbed to the deadly grip of female grooming at age 11 and let my mom pluck my eyebrows. so hard that she ripped off a strip of eyelid skin.
Had I been exposed to this wonderfully haunting portrait of Whitlam – which is inexplicably reminiscent of German Expressionism – I would have erred on the side of natural, unfettered hair growth. In this painting, Whitlam’s hooded eyebrows exude an owl-like quality. And every time I look at it, the owl brings me home, keeping me safe.
Julia GillardThe three-year term of was a turn. The former lawyer was forced into a population that still seemed unconvinced of the idea of women (or any other marginalized gender). The hostility Gillard received from angry men, confused boys, and the usual pick-me crowd usually took the form of cruel comments about his physical appearance. Where other world leaders were free to peacefully engage in extramarital affairs and war crimes, Gillard was compared to a “quail” on a menu at a Liberal Party dinner and constantly singled out by cartoonists who ridiculed everything from her earlobes to her hair color.
Luckily, I’m here to take all that trauma away. Down to the last bit of vitriol. Spread the word: Gillard, the nation’s 27th prime minister who invented sporf (the spoon, knife and fork combined), had elegantly groomed eyebrows and an exquisite color to match his hair.
Gillard’s eyebrows were both 10 years too late and 12 years too early. But what is style if not cyclical? With Fendi baguettes, bitchy little sunglasses and low-rise jeans, the skinny front weaves its way into 2022 like the level one snake on Nokia’s snake, striking fear into the hearts of anyone who’s recently traded a Groupon for microblading. Rather than having thin brows with the unchanging width we saw in the 1990s, Gillard sported thin, tapered brows that further exemplified the arch shape that defined the next generation of brows, except hers weren’t. didn’t have the fullness and bushy architectured castor oil to follow.
Have you ever heard someone yell, “Menzies, be damned”? Well, chances are they’re not commenting on the pelvic pain, but on the agony that comes with not having the dichromatic configuration of dark eyebrows and light hair. Robert Menzies‘ eyebrows walked so that Cara Delevingne‘s could skyrocket. While Menzies’ official portrait lacks the German Expressionism of Whitlam, his brows come alive with movement, gravity, and hints of an inverted Nike swoosh.
2. John Howard
John Howard had a set of storybook eyebrows, in that it was the hungriest caterpillars you’ve ever seen. In 1996 he negotiated national gun control laws, but years later he is remembered for an even more adamant stance: not to consent to a front cut. In doing so, Howard joined the likes of Barbara Streisand (nose), Kirsten Dunst (teeth) and the man on the box Quaker Oats (everything), an absolute community of innovators who have resisted societal pressures to eradicate their finest features.
1. Bob Hawke
Bob Hawke was not lacking in horn-inducing qualities: a progressive stance on asylum seekers, the ability to drink a pint convincingly, and eyebrows that set the tone for the Instagram-face. Before bella Where Kyliepeople presented files from Manila containing press clippings of Hawke in his prime (between 57 and 89) to brow lift specialists.
Unlike other Australian leaders with eyebrows who spoke, Hawke was unique: His eyebrows weren’t the only physical feature anchoring his face in place and keeping millions of viewers hooked at press conferences. These two ticks – which spoke of ironic alertness – doubled as arrows that suggested “my hair is here”, redirecting the gaze to the silvery silk that rippled from the folds of the well-deserved laugh lines.
Serena Coady is a Malaysian-Australian writer based in London. Find her on Twitter (@serenacoady), if it pleases you.