Throughout the years beards have seen alternating cycles of popularity and disdain. In much earlier times they were thought to be of practical use where as in more recent history they where tied more to status, politics and religion. The modern beard has caught on for different reasons and is currently popular for fashion and personal style reasons. Regardless of whether or not you are a fan, they are currently receiving a higher than normal level of acceptance that has birthed a whole culture of dedicated beard grooming experts as well targeted products such as beard oil and beard balm.
Is a beard right for you? Only you can answer that but if you are in doubt perhaps sharing some of its proud history might help bring some clarity.
Way back in history everything was about survival. Things weren't easy and as can be imagined the challenges where many and the dangers were ever present. Men's beard were pure practicality back then. It is believed that beards where grown to protect ancient mans face from the elements specifically the cold. In addition facial hair would help to exaggerate the jawline adding a certain amount of fierceness to their appearance which could be used to intimidate or scare off enemies. Lastly, by having a thick beard the hope was that it could help absorb minor blows directed at the owners face offering a small measure of protection.
In a time when the daily focus was on hunting/foraging, shelter and safety any little benefit could mean the difference between life and death.
Between 3000 BCE and 1580 BCE ancient Egyptians Kings and Queens were known to use a false beards called a postiche. These were made of metal and held in place with a ribbon. It was also common that the highest ranking Egyptians grow an actual narrow chin beard and that it be dyed between a dark brown to a red tinted brown.
(Akkadians, Assyrians, Babylonians and Chaldeans)
This culture which encompassed most of Iraq and Kuwait, eastern Syria, Southeastern Turkey and regions along the Turkish-Syrian and Iran-Iraq borders were well known for using beard oils to keep their facial hair healthy looking. They were also experts in using ancients variants of curling irons to style their beards.
In ancient India beards where treated with great care and allowed to grow long being viewed as a symbol of wisdom and dignity.
Among the Gaelic Celts of Scotland and Ireland having no facial hair was dishonorable which is why many grew full beards without question.
While many cultures regarded those with beards to be wise and dignified the ancient Greeks also believed beards were a sign of honor and a sign of masculinity. They would curl their beards and would only shave it as a sign of mourning.
The Spartans would punish people especially cowards by cutting their beards.
In 345 BCE Alexander the Great commanded that his men couldn't have beards. He was concerned that his enemies would grab hold of the beards and use it to gain advantage.
Ancient Romans in the early empire preferred short well maintained beards but in 616 BCE Lucius Tarquinius Pricus attempted to direct the city into a hygiene reform by encouraging the use of razors for shaving. While not immediately adopted it did become more the norm years later in 454 BCE.
Famous for being fierce, bearded aggressors these folk originated in the Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Denmark, along with Norway and roamed Eastern and Western Europe from 800-1066 AD. Some of the biggest misconceptions of Vikings is that they were dirty and unkempt. Evidence suggests that they were actually a very clean people for the time period and made sure to keep their beards groomed and presentable.
Beards where the norm here until the 7th century when Christianity required its clergy to be clean shaven and for the most part clean shaven was the preferred or required way to be. Then with the start of the Crusades beards came back into fashion. Knights grew in facial hair to show their masculinity and for centuries it was up to the populace as to what kind of facial hair they chose to sport. During this time many new and unique stylings where created and beard wax became a commonly used item in order to shape the beard to the desired style.
With the arrival of the Renaissance beards once again fell out of favor and King Henry VIII actually implemented a beard tax. Queen Elizabeth did not have a fondness for facial hair and so continued the beard tax during her reign.
From 1700 clean shaven was the only way to be and became the standard of the cultured, polite gentleman. Beards where considered a rough and uncouth statement and remained out of favor for about 150 years.
About half way into the 19th century things once again changed and beards became the choice of the gentleman.
The British had concerns with the fighting spirit of their men and feared they had grown soft from years spent indoors in offices and factories. With an elevated French military threat they needed something that could overcome the concern of the men having gone soft from easier living conditions. When looking for something that embodied masculinity and gave the appearance of a stronger looking individual beards became a possible solution. During this time many educated people also spoke up in favor of facial hair claiming it had many health benefits. During the Golden Era many popular leaders wore beards and raised its popularity with their followers and supporters. Needless to say there were beards on almost every face.
The beginning of the 20th century brought with it a decline in beards. During the first world war beards where banned by the military due to it interfering with a proper fit of a gas mask. Clean shaven once again became the norm and it remained so until after the second world war.
During the 1960's beards reemerged thanks to their popularity with the Hippie Movement but only the mustache was viewed as acceptable and fashionable in the years that followed as clean shaven was viewed once again as the way for the modern career driven modern man.
The 1990's had an ever so brief flirtation with the goatee but it was short lived.
It wasn't until 2012 when beards regained popularity and became a large part of many peoples personal style. The hipsters played a large part in this but many took that cue to express themselves and push for a wider acceptance of facial hair. Now we see many business professionals, athletes and celebrities proudly rockin beards with no sign of it slowing down.
Today about 33% of North American men and about 55% of the worlds men have facial hair. In a study women as a whole found bearded men to be only 2/3rds as attractive as clean shaven men but at the same time said that a bearded man appears:
They were also viewed as:
When you look at these it makes you realize that the cavemen and ancient warriors had it right as the beard still to this day gives off a powerful, hard image.
As you can see beards have been on a roller coaster ride though history but currently are moving toward a high point once again. The beard industry is booming and beard products are in high demand in part to men wanting to look their best by taking care of their facial hair. Will it remain this way or will things flip flop once again. Only time will tell, but for now, Beards are most certainly In.
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