The Beard. A symbol of manhood, wisdom, and style throughout the ages. Commanding respect and reverence from century to century. Sported by millions of dashing beadsmen around the globe today. But what was it like to have a beard centuries before beard oil? And how were beards regarded through history? Stick around, and we’ll take a brief journey through the history of mankind’s most distinguished feature.
From the beginning of human civilization, humans have been able to grow beards. Thousands years before the first beard trimmer was invented. Who knows why those first patriarchs of our great race decided to grow theirs? Of course, the scientists have their opinions. They were warm. They protected the face. They were a mark of strength. We’re pretty sure the founding fathers of our race simply recognized good style when they saw it. And thus began the grand tradition of a man growing out the follicles on his chin — the noble tradition of the beard.
BEARDS IN ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS
Once the bearded tradition was under way, there was no stopping it. Beards quickly grew accepted as grand status symbols. They were a mark of wisdom, denoting the elders worthy of respect. They signified masculinity and strength. To have one’s beard shaven was shameful.
This sentiment was echoed around the world. In ancient Greece, the beard symbolized manhood and strength, and a clean-shaven face indicated an almost feminine quality. In India, cutting of the beard was considered suitable punishment for sexual immorality, and beards could even be used as guarantees against a loan, such was their value. And in ancient Egypt, the metal potische (false beard) was worn by rulers — even by queens. The world had a true respect for the value of the beard — and it showed in culture after culture, spanning the globe for millennia.
BEARDS IN THE MIDDLE AGES AND RENAISSANCE
As time passed and society advanced, the popularity of beards waxed and waned — although whether popular or not, they continued to be revered. Through the Middle Ages, the beard was a mark of honor for knights, noblemen and kings, and they’re almost ubiquitous in portraits of monarchs of the era. (We can’t help but wonder if the reason the bearded Henry VIII had six wives was that he had a fantastic stash of 16th-century beard oil hidden somewhere.) And so solemnly were beards regarded that laying hands upon another gentleman’s beard was an offence to his honor — and called for a duel to settle the matter. Across the globe, the Chinese empire also favored the growth of beards.
But throughout the 15th to 19th centuries, the popularity of beards fluctuated wildly in the West. There were patches of unpopularity — as well as times when many new styles were invented, or popular figures (such as one of the greatest bearded men of history, Abraham Lincoln) championed their own style of beard and sent beard popularities skyrocketing through their era. But overall, the popularity of the humble beard gradually began to decline towards the present era.
BEARDS IN THE PRESENT DAY
Over the last century, and until the present day, beards in the West have seen popularities amongst the lowest they have ever had. The wonderful beards of history’s great men and rulers have long since been traded for the clean, ‘professional’ look of the smooth-shaven face. Even the term ‘clean-shaven’ implies something about beards we don’t care to agree with.
But there is hope. Recently, more and more beardsmen around the world have been getting in touch with their roots — both historical and follicular. And for the first time in decades, it seems our culture may be experiencing a Renaissance of its own — a Renaissance of the beard. Whether this is simply another fad or the beginning of a true resurgence of the glorious beards of the past, it’s too early to tell. So step up, beardsmen, and live up to history. The world needs you. Long live the beard.