From cavemen to ancient Egyptians and early America to today, having hair on your face has shifted in and out of fashion.
Currently, we love them. Search the term ‘beard’ in Google and you’ll soon discover a steady climb of beard-related queries from 2011 onwards. Man has rekindled his love for beards – but it hasn’t always been that way.
Here’s how beards were used and treated throughout history.
The start of a clean face: Archaeologists have found evidence that men started to shave their beards as early as 100,000 BC, but the first razor – then made of flint – dates back to only 30,000 BC, making shaving before then a painful experience. To rid their face of hair, our ancestors would use two seashells to grip the beard and pull – sort of like ancient tweezers. Ouch.
Before then, a beard was a sign of honour, and only cut as punishment.
Shave like an Egyptian: Everyone in ancient Egypt – especially the upper class – went completely bare, and for good reason. Given the general lack of medicine or soap in these times, going bald was a much more hygienic alternative. This early trend eventually evolved into a ‘superior’ look, where only the lowest classes would sport facial hair.
Smooth chin, smooth fight: Ancient Greece saw beards as a sign of wisdom and knowledge, until Alexander the Great changed that. Around 345 BC, he forbade his soldiers from having beards out of fear their enemies would pull them in battle.
Beard tax: The beard eventually came back into fashion, but a few rulers objected to their presence. In 1698, Peter the Great introduced a beard tax. Anyone wishing to keep their beard had to pay, and to add insult to injury, also had to wear a medallion that read: “The beard is a useless burden,” or something to that effect.
“I swear by my beard”: Otto the Great, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire until 973, would swear by his beard whenever making an important announcement.
Beard fights: In the middle ages, touching another man’s beard was offensive and grounds for a duel.
A-beard-ham Lincoln: Abraham Lincoln is believed to have popularised beards for men in the 19th century. Before his presidency, Lincoln was clean-shaven – that is, until an 11-year-old girl wrote him a letter suggesting that he grow a beard to improve his appearance.
Today, men of all shapes, sizes and classes sport beards. Everyone and their uncle has one, and for good reason: They’re badass. Full-bearded men - throughout history and today - appear older, more respected, of higher status and powerful.
Sure, history may show a pattern of returning to clean-faceness, but whether you sport a full face carpet, a five o’clock shadow or a few wispy whiskers, growing a beard has always been a rite of passage for men throughout history.
Take it from us – beards are here to stay.