This Wednesday, we’re looking at the history. It turns out that beards have some pretty interesting history. For a full read, check out Of Beards and Men by Christopher Oldstone-Moore.
Historically, beards have been a way for men to indicate very important things about themselves, whether their status as a warrior or a priest in the earliest history of beards, their political alignment, or their rebellion against the current ruling elite.
Depending on the political climate and social correctness of the time, beard fashion can cycle quite quickly, but the meaning attributed to the different sorts of facial hair doesn’t seem to change much. A full beard has continued to be a sign of masculinity, linked to independence and strength, where a clean-shaven man is seen to reflect the more traditionally feminine ideals of trustworthiness, cooperation and youth. A clean-shaven man was also seen to be more civilized, where a bearded man harkened back to a wilder time.
Throughout history, there have often been “beard movements” where personalities will encourage their followers to grow specific types of beards to indicate their support of a movement. One of the most notable examples in recent history is John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “bed ins” where they encouraged young people to support peace by growing out their hair. Another example is Fidel Castro use of a beard as a symbol of his revolution. Castro told his supporters that their “...beard does not belong to [them]. It belongs to the revolution”. As far back as the 1800s, French and American rebels grew their beards for this reason.
History aside, you can’t ignore that beards are gaining in popularity. Whatever your personal reason for growing a beard – to express your autonomy, your masculinity, your religious identity, or just to support a worthy cause like Movember – take care of it for goodness sake!