SASKATOON — Is it time for Tom Mulcair to get out his razor?

Last year, the NDP leader said he wouldn't shave his beard, but Mulcair refused to be as categorical this year.

When asked this week whether he would consider losing the whiskers to increase his polling numbers, Mulcair said it was a "unique question."

"[It's] one that I have never been asked before so when you show me the polling numbers on which that question is based, I would be glad to answer you," he said.

The NDP leader, 58, has worn a beard for decades. He first grew one as an 18-year-old law student at McGill University, in an attempt to look more mature.

But media consultant Barry McLoughlin told HuffPost that if Mulcair was his client, he'd recommend he take two weeks off in the summer and shave it.

McLouglin said that although Mulcair's beard is well-styled, trimmed and looks good on him, it creates a barrier between him and the voter. Hiding some of his face makes it harder for people to connect with him, McLoughlin said — and it shouldn't come as a surprise that people may feel they don't know him personally if a third of his face is hidden.

"He looks stern and professorial," he said. The beard is "not helpful" and means Mulcair has to work harder to show warmth, which is mostly in the face.

"People don't logically say, I won't vote for somebody who wears a beard. It’s more of an instinctive, visceral, can't-quite-verbalize-it thing," McLoughlin said.

"In North American culture, it is exceptional to elect someone to high office wearing a beard. It hasn’t been done since television came in, but it's a great radio look."

The last prime minister to wear a beard was Mackenzie Bowell, in 1894. But he was appointed to office rather than elected when John Thompson died.

mackenzie bowell

Image consultant Lynne Mackay told HuffPost that, generally, less facial hair gives the impression of integrity while a clean-shaven look says someone isn't hiding anything.

But Kat Neumann, a personal image consultant, said Mulcair's beard sets him apart. Beards, historically, have been associated with wisdom and masculinity, she said.

"As long as he maintains his beard, keeping it trim and neat, he can use it to his advantage to create an image that differs from other politicians," Newmann wrote HuffPost in an email. "However, a beard will age a face and given that he is losing ground to the younger (Justin) Trudeau, he may want to consider a shave, thus softening his look, as he tends to come across as surly."

Beard-wearing Quebec NDP MP Robert Aubin told HuffPost that Mulcair shouldn't shave.

"If we are starting to ask politicians to shave their beards, it will mean that the image is stronger than the substance," he said. "I think we would have a fundamental problem in society if that's the case."

Ontario NDP MP Mike Sullivan, who wears a white goatee, laughed when asked if his leader should shave his beard.

"Jack had a moustache and he didn't shave it off," he noted.

In a 1980 CBC interview, Pierre Trudeau said his friend, philosopher and communications theorist Marshall McLuhan had advised him to shave his beard if he wanted to "warm up" his image.

Trudeau had grown a beard after an Arctic trip, and recounted how McLuhan told him: "You know you've cooled your image several degrees."

pierre trudeau

Trudeau said that was perhaps what he subconsciously wanted because he was seeking a lower profile.

"I would have thought a beard would have attracted more interest but he reached the contrary conclusions and I think he probably was right. He went on to say 'And you can keep that in mind if ever you want to hot up your image again,'" Trudeau said.

"And in fact, when I cut my beard off, people said 'Oh my gosh, Trudeau is back in politics.' I was no longer retiring, just because I cut my beard off."

Also on HuffPost:

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  • Infinite Beard

    Keeps going and going and going. (Via <a href="http://www.realthinktank.com/2009/12/infinite-beard-really-bad-idea.html" target="_hplink">Real Think Tank</a>)

  • ?

    Good question. (Via <a href="http://www.funnyhairs.com/funny-facial-hair-03.html" target="_hplink">Facial Hairs</a>)

  • Whiskers

    Just don't pull them. (Via <a href="http://list25.com/top-25-craziest-beards-ever/2/" target="_hplink">List 25</a>)

  • The Bat-stache

    By far the most beard-friendly superhero logo. (Via <a href="http://www.reddit.com/r/pics/comments/sys9k/i_had_a_dreamit_is_now_reality_the_batstache/" target="_hplink">reddit</a>)

  • Z-Beard

    Or an S-beard, from his perspective. (Via <a href="http://list25.com/top-25-craziest-beards-ever/" target="_hplink">List 25</a>)

  • Pac-Man Beard

    Always chasing those pellets. (Via <a href="http://www.oddee.com/item_97821.aspx" target="_hplink">Oddee</a>)

  • The Half-Beard

    Keep at it. The other half will grow in soon. (Via flickr: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/scomedy/6142925081/" target="_hplink">scomedy</a>)

  • Brandenburg Gate Beard

    One of the most famous beard landmarks. (Via <a href="http://roflstuffz.blogspot.com/2009/09/truth-or-fail-beard-trivia.html" target="_hplink">Rofl Stuff</a>)

  • Moustache Beard

    A beard in the form of moustaches. Interesting. (Via <a href="http://www.funnyhairs.com/funny-moustache-03.html" target="_hplink">Funny Hairs</a>)

  • Beard Tattoo

    Must take a long time to shave. (Via <a href="http://thevelvetrocket.com/2009/06/26/awesome-facial-hair-the-champions/" target="_hplink">The Velvet Rocket</a>)

  • Beard Rings

    Larger and larger. (Via <a href="http://list25.com/top-25-craziest-beards-ever/" target="_hplink">List 25</a>)

  • The Monkey Tail

    Dedication. That's what it looks like. (Via <a href="http://www.geekologie.com/2011/04/all-the-rage-ridiculous-monkeytail-beard.php" target="_hplink">Geekologie</a>)

  • Stretched Beard

    A lot of hair gel is necessary for this. (Via <a href="http://oddfunny.com/yet-another-crazy-beard-design/" target="_hplink">OddFunny</a>)

  • UP NEXT: Facial Hair On Parade

  • Chris Porrovecchio of Kendall Park, New Jersey, left, carries the New Jersey state flag during a parade through the French Quarter kicking off the fourth annual Just For Men National Beard and Moustache Championships Saturday, September 7, 2013 in New Orleans. Contestants competed in 18 different categories including Dali, full beard natural and sideburns. (AP Photo/Susan Poag)

  • Alexander Fleming of New Orleans tips his hat to the crowd on Canal Street during a parade which wound its way through the French Quarter kicking off the fourth annual Just For Men National Beard and Moustache Championships Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013 in New Orleans. Contestants competed in 18 different categories including Dali, full beard natural and sideburns. (AP Photo/Susan Poag)

  • Ian Stetler of Lake Station, Indiana, struts his stuff during a parade through the French Quarter kicking off the fourth annual Just For Men National Beard and Moustache Championships Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013 in New Orleans. Stetler competed in the Dali division. Contestants competed in 18 different categories including Dali, full beard natural and sideburns. (AP Photo/Susan Poag)

  • Brian Werle shows off his mustache while competing in the English Moustache division during the fourth annual Just For Men National Beard and Moustache Championships Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, in New Orleans. Contestants competed in 18 different categories including Dali, full beard natural and sideburns. (AP Photo/Susan Poag)

  • Gregory McNamara poses for the crowd while competing in the English Moustache division during the fourth annual Just For Men National Beard and Moustache Championships Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013 at The House of Blues in New Orleans. Contestants competed in 18 different categories including Dali, full beard natural and sideburns. (AP Photo/Susan Poag)

  • Richard Wehbe holds his number high for the crowd duing the judging of the Natural Moustache division at the fourth annual Just For Men National Beard and Moustache Championships Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013 in New Orleans. Contestants competed in 18 different categories including Dali, full beard natural and sideburns. (AP Photo/Susan Poag)

  • Tourists Elaine Oliveira, Zuleika Riveron and Daniele Alfonso pose with contestants Paul Roof of Charleston, South Carolina and Derek Nehrbass of New Orleans during a parade through the French Quarter kicking off the fourth annual Just For Men National Beard and Moustache Championships Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013 in New Orleans. Contestants competed in 18 different categories including Dali, full beard natural and sideburns. (AP Photo/Susan Poag)

  • Adam Scott strikes a pose as he competes in the Imperial Mustache division during the fourth annual Just For Men National Beard and Moustache Championships Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013 at The House of Blues in New Orleans. More than 150 contestants competed in 18 different categories including Dali, full beard natural and sideburns. (AP Photo/Susan Poag)

  • Nick Ackerman celebrates taking the gold for first place in the English Moustache division during the fourth annual Just For Men National Beard and Moustache Championships Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013 at The House of Blues in New Orleans. Contestants competed in 18 different categories including Dali, full beard natural and sideburns. (AP Photo/Susan Poag)

  • Keith Haubrich of Seattle, Wash., reacts to the crowd while competing in the Dali Moustache division during the fourth annual Just For Men National Beard and Moustache Championships Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013 in New Orleans. Haubrich went on to win the gold medal for the Dali division.Contestants competed in 18 different categories including Dali, full beard natural and sideburns.(AP Photo/Susan Poag)

  • Jeffrey Moustache parades with contestants through the French Quarter kicking off the fourth annual Just For Men National Beard and Moustache Championships Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013 in New Orleans. Moustache was going to enter the Verdi division.Contestants competed in 18 different categories including Dali, full beard natural and sideburns. (AP Photo/Susan Poag)

  • Nick Marciangelo of Honolulu, Hawaii keeps up the beat as contestants parade through the French Quarter before competing in the fourth annual Just For Men National Beard and Moustache Championships Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013 in New Orleans. Contestants competed in 18 different categories including Dali, full beard natural and sideburns. (AP Photo/Susan Poag)

  • Devon Holcombe of Jacksonville, Fla., poses for the crowd before continuing on to win a gold medal in the Natural Moustache division during the fourth annual Just For Men National Beard and Moustache Championships at The House of Blues Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013 in New Orleans. Contestants competed in 18 different categories including Dali, full beard natural and sideburns. (AP Photo/Susan Poag)

  • Devon Holcombe of Jacksonville, Fla., greets the crowd before continuing on to win the gold medal in the Natural Moustache division during the fourth annual Just For Men National Beard and Moustache Championships at The House of Blues Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013 in New Orleans. Contestants competed in 18 different categories including Dali, full beard natural and sideburns. (AP Photo/Susan Poag)

  • UP NEXT: 'Duck Dynasty' Stars Without Their Beards

  • Guess Who?

  • Willie Robertson

    Willie now. Previous slide: Willie is all business in the front and party in the back as a student at was then Northeast Louisiana University (it's now University of Louisiana at Monroe).

  • Guess Who?

  • Jep Robertson

    Jep now. Previous slide: Who knew Jep was such a studly high school senior?

  • Guess Who?

  • Jase Robertson

    Jase now. Previous slide: In this family photo from a few years ago, Jase only has the beginning of the beard he sports today.

  • Guess Who?

  • Phil Robertson

    Phil now. Previous slide: Who would have guessed that this young boy would grow up to become Phil Robertson: Duck Commander?

  • Guess Who?

  • Uncle Si

    Uncle Si now. Previous slide: It's Uncle Si without the beard! Didn't he look dapper when he was in the military?

  • Then

    Recognize those fresh faces? Clockwise from left: Willie, Jep, and Jase.

  • Now

    From left to right: Jase, Uncle Si, Jep and Willie.

  • Before the Beards

    The beardless Robertson boys. From left to right: Willie, Jase, Alan (who is joining the show in Season 4), and Jep.