The Significance of Beards Throughout History
Walk down any street and chances are you’ll spot at least one man with a beard.
Facial hair is in right now, whether it’s a subtle five o’clock shadow, a goatee, a full Duck Dynasty beard or some other variation. But beards haven’t always been this popular, and they’ve represented more than just fashion trends and primitive ways to protect your skin.
Going back to the Dynastic period in Egypt, facial hair was seen as a low class sign of animal tendencies. Men even went as far as removing their eyelashes!
As time went on, beards grew in favor. In ancient Greece, for example, beards were seen as signs of virility, manhood and wisdom. They were cut only during a time of mourning or as a form of punishment to Spartans.
The ancient Romans decided to distinguish themselves from the Greeks by being clean-shaven. It was so important to Roman culture that religious ceremonies were held when boys shaved for the first time.
By the years 330 – 1750 in Europe, facial hair had mixed support. While knights maintained beards as a sign of masculinity and honor, King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth weren’t fans, at least on those they ruled. King Henry kept his beard while everyone else had to pay a tax for growing one.
Forward ahead to the early 1900s in America and facial hair was not in vogue. Soldiers in WWI couldn’t have beards because they could interfere with gas masks. This led to a no-beard trend that continued until after WWII. Beards eventually made a comeback years later when they were sported by hippies and the Beatles.
Religions have different views on the topic. Christians didn’t depict Jesus with a beard until 500 CE, and early popes and bishops opposed beards. In Islam, beards are seen as an indicator of religious devotion to the Qur’an. Meanwhile, most Jewish men learn that Leviticus 19:27 maintains they can only trim and remove facial hair with scissors or, in modern times, an electric razor.
Politicians typically avoid beards because historically it was a sign of protest and later it suggested opposition to women’s issues. While many sports clubs used to have a less-than-favorable view of beards, that has changed in recent years. In 2015, more professional baseball players had beards than not.
Today, facial hair is popular enough that there is a World Beard and Mustache Championship and hipster men in New York have been known to pay more than $8,000 for facial hair transplants to fix less-than-perfect beards.