There have been many reasons why beards have been popular over the years. In this article, we will take a look back in time and reflect on both the fashions of the day and their reasoning behind it.
Back in prehistoric times, beards would have been grown for practical reasons. Such as for warmth and to protect the mouth and neck. Also, it aids intimidation. A beard gives a sense of a stronger looking jawline, which helps you look more frightening.
It was believed that most Egyptian men were clean-shaven. But pharaohs often wore fake beards. These were often plaited like a braid and interwoven with gold thread. This was considered a status symbol.
The Mesopotamian people took great care of their beards, using beard oil to keep their beards looking healthy. Their preferred style was to have ringlets and frizzles in a tiered effect. Often using a form of curling iron to produce this effect.
With the ancient Greeks, beards were a sign of honour and masculinity. The growth of a full beard showed you as a fully adult male. These beards were often curled to produce great hanging curls. Beards were even cut off as a form of punishment! They remained popular until Alexander the Great ordered all soldiers to be clean-shaven. He feared that opposing soldiers could grab you by the beard and pulled into a vulnerable position to be killed.
The Romans wanted to distinguish themselves from other civilisations, so they were very often clean shaving. They believed that beards denoted barbarism.
The Anglo-Saxons had beards until the advent of Christianity, which required the clergy to shave. English princes often grew moustaches. But around 1066 a law brought in by William the First required them to shave to fit with Norman fashions.
The return of the beards coincided with the beginning of the Crusades.
During this period a beard displayed a knight’s virility and honour. Grabbing someone else’s beard was a serious offence and often resulted in a duel
While most noblemen and knights had a beard, the Catholic clergy were generally required to be clean-shaven. This was thought to be a symbol of their celibacy
In the time of Henry VIII, he declared beards to be a taxable offence. Despite having a beard himself. Queen Elizabeth had a strong dislike for beards, so she continued the beard taxation.
In Russia, Peter the Great was a great admirer of all things European. So, he decided to apply the same taxation to men of society. This was to show his appreciation of Western culture.
Age of Enlightenment
In the early 1600s, a painter named Sir Anthony Vandyke began to paint many aristocrats with pointed beards. This style of beard was called the Vandyke. The men used pomade or wax to shape their beards, and they applied it with tiny brushes and combs. The people of this time invented different gadgets to keep moustaches and beards in shape while they slept.
From around 1700, beards disappeared from men’s faces across Europe. Facial hair became associated with rough stereotypes, while the smooth skin represented the ‘polite’ gentleman.
During the 1850s, beards again became popular and were adopted by many leaders, such as Alexander III of Russia, Napoleon III of France and Frederick III of Germany, as well as many leading statesmen and cultural figures, such as Benjamin Disraeli, Charles Dickens, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Karl Marx, and Giuseppe Verdi
With Abraham Lincoln’s popularity, beards were worn both by the upper-class and poorer men. As the beard had become a sign of moral courage.
In Britain, the beard made a comeback during the Crimean War of 1854-56. One reason was the freezing cold temperatures, the other due to the lack of shaving cream and soap. After the war, the beard was the sign of a hero. It was also thought to be a sign of manliness. Between 1860 – 1916 those in the British Army were told they must have a moustache.
Age of Globalisation
By the start of the first World War, beard growth was banned among soldiers as it interfered with the proper fitting of a gas mask around the face.
Beards made another appearance at the start of the 1950s by the counterculture movement. Firstly, by the “beatniks” in the 1950s, and then with the hippie movement of the mid-1960s. This fashion continued with popular music artists like The Beatles. But once the band split up, the popularity diminished.
At the turn of the 21st Century, full beards were for biker dudes, mountain men and the religious. But since around 2012 the popularity of the beard is back. The popularity of some styles such as the lumberjack has diminished. But other styles such as the goatee and the elegant Van Dyke are becoming more popular.
As a result, a whole industry has sprung up to cater to men who want ‘products’ to pamper their whiskers. There is now an array of beard oils, conditioners, combs and trimmers.
If you have a beard and want to keep it in perfect condition, then check out our range of beard care products here.