Do spies and assassins really wear fake beards?


Absolutely. When an assassin pulls off a hit in a public place, he usually wears what espionage experts call “light disguise,” consisting of accessories that can be quickly removed—like glasses, a hat, a cane, or the old standby false mustache. That way, after pulling the trigger, he can duck into a restroom stall and change identities by peeling off his facial hair and ditching the chapeau. Beards also help to confuse electronic facial recognition systems that rely on precise measurements of the jaw line and cheekbones.

Assassins may choose schlocky ready-made beards with self-adhesive backings when making a quick hit, because believability and unobtrusiveness are often counterproductive in these situations. Loud elements like a bad weave, gold teeth, patterned blazers, or prosthetic warts grab the attention of potential witnesses, who become so focused on the zany costume that they can’t remember anything else about the suspect.


Of course, in these sustained missions, facial hair is a small element of the overall disguise. Agents may self-tan, don color contacts, put pebbles in their shoes to change their gait…


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