Noah Dietrich, Hughes's long-time friend and business manager, whom Hughes fired in a pique of paranoia in 1957, commented later that a reason for Hughes's intense reclusiveness was his fear of people seeing what he looked like. Hughes was a strikingly handsome man in his early years - he had an almost Hollywood movie star face. After his near fatal crash in 1947, the Senate Hearings, and test flight of the Flying Boat, Hughes looked much older, almost haunted. Like many aging celebrities Hughes preferred flattering photos which were often re-touched.
One of the curious mysteries of his portraits and his appearance in general was his mustache, about which he seemed unable to decide. He was clean shaven in his early years, and he sported a mustache later, but in his official photos the mustache was on and off, in the PR files there were copies of the same portrait, one with, one without mustache. There were of course no known or at least acknowledged or official photos of Hughes after the mid-1950s, although he did not withdraw completely from public until the later '60s. There were various artist speculation of Hughes as an old man, with long hair and a beard, but his appearance became part of the myth and mystery of Howard Hughes.