With beards having a resurgence in popularity over the past few years we decided to delve into the history books to discover how our attitudes to facial hair have changed over the years.
THE ANCIENT WORLD
In Ancient Egypt, having a beard was a sign of wealth and power. Many would dye, braid and interweave their beards with golden threads – the more ostentatious the better. Highly stylised beards can be seen on burial masks and art from the time.
In Ancient Greece there was a move away from colours and braids, instead men would create tightly curled beards, as seen in this depiction of the Greek God Zeus. Beards were so revered in these times that Spartan warriors would shave them off as punishment for cowardice.
THE ROMAN SHAVE INVASION
Beards had a rocky time during the Roman era. Nearly all men became clean-shaven during this period, with only slaves keeping facial hair. However, this began to change when a Roman Emperor grew a beard to hide battle wounds on his face, kick-starting the trend once more.
For knights a beard was a sign of honour and nobility, and was a masked contrast to the clergymen of the Catholic church who were required to remain clean-shaven as an outward symbol of their celibacy. However, due the reign of Henry VIII, despite having one himself for most of his life, a beard tax was introduced that continued throughout Queen Elizabeth I reign (although the rumour is she just didn’t like beards!)
THE BIG BEARD COMEBACK
From the early 1700s until the 1850s the beard took a dip in popularity, with nearly all noble and upperclass men remaining clean-shaven. It wasn’t until notable world leaders and thinkers (Charles Dickens, Karl Marx, Benjamin Disraeli and most notably Abraham Lincoln) adopted beards that the everyman followed suit.
THE LAST CENTURY
During the war soldiers remained shaven to allow their gas masks to fit properly, with only small ‘toothbrush’ moustaches in fashion until the 1960s when musicians and the hippie trend brought beards back to the mainstream. At the turn of this century beards appeared to be the mainstay of bikers and rednecks before beginning to seep back into social consciousness once more. Now you’d be hard pressed to open a magazine, or walk down the street without seeing a man sporting a full beard, or at the very least some serious stubble….who knows what will happen to the beard next!