There are many different variations of beard styles in each culture with every kind having its own unique history, as an example; in ancient Egypt long beards coloured with hair dyes were considered a sign of wealth. We can definitely say that beard history has a very interesting, fascinating and colourful past.
In this article, we're going to dive into the history, origin and meaning of all the beard styles so well recognised and loved today.
According to scientists and archaeologists, they believe in the early days of humanity when humans were in the hunting and gathering stage; there were three main reasons and benefits for growing a beard:
Other than giving off an intimidating vibe, the more facial hair a man had, the more cushioning he would have from any physical contact. This is why men from the prehistoric times had thicker beards to protect their face during physical fights and battles.
Facial hair is a brilliant insulator and works excellently as a means of skin protection from harsh cold weather. From ancient times to the present day, a long thick beard has helped men keep their head, face, neck and upper body warm during colder months.
It is a common belief that people with a beard look more powerful and intimidating. It is believed that during the primitive ages, anyone with an impressive thick beard could better protect their family and territory as invaders would be intimidated and put off by a man with a thick beard.
In Ancient Egypt, the rule of thumb was that the population would always follow the ruling classes' steps, so when the wealthy and emperors started growing beards, the rest quickly followed. We can understand the importance of beards in early Egypt owing to the mummy masks, statues and wall paintings along with depictions of olden rulers of Egypt mostly all having beards.
However, this trend did not last for long, as later on the ruling classes started to favour shaving. At that time a clean-shaved look became the in-thing, anyone who had a beard was considered to be a slave or a peasant. Even though having a beard became a symbol of poverty people still had and grew beards, the beard remained an essential part of the Ancient Egyptians culture because their gods were believed to have had beards. This is why on special days; Pharaoh would make use of a fake beard to prove himself a god to the people.
Around the Ancient Roman rule, the popularity of beards and facial hair in Italy started to drop, and the art of shaving started to increase. This was because the working use of a beard was replaced with armour protection and warm clothing, and having a beard became a non-requirement for the working classes.
In Ancient Rome, growing a beard was however still popular among the elite and philosophers, and thus beards were still considered a symbol of experience and wisdom. This is why some of the younger generations at that time would make great efforts to make their beard as long and as thick as possible.
Beards were considered a precious asset in Ancient India, and you could grow them to their full capacity without needing to groom or cut them. If someone committed a crime, it was considered the best punishment to shave off the offender's beard.
Beards were so sacred in India that a person could shave it off and present it to an indebted party if they could not return their debt. A beard in Ancient India was a valuable asset that was considered a sign of wisdom and wealth that is today still believed in many parts of the region.
Ancient Macedonia And Greece:
Beards were always popular and were well groomed in Ancient Greece and like many other nations, a symbol of high status and power. It did however become couture for Greek Spartans to shave off a section of their fellow's beard if he or she committed cowardice. As time passed this couture was eventually adopted by the masses making shaving a popular trend and beards less and less common in Ancient Greece, but, still considered a symbol of high society for many years later.
Macedonia was also the only civilisation from the Mesopotamian civilisations that always disliked beards. Even though other civilisations enjoyed a period of favouring beards immensely, Macedonia, however, disagreed.
Among the soldiers in Ancient Macedonia beards were especially discouraged. Alexander the Great did not want his soldiers to get distracted by them during battle. He believed that by having a beard, a soldier would become more vulnerable to defeat.
Based on the sayings of the Chinese Philosopher Confucius 'the human body is a gift, and no changes should be made to it'. This is why in Ancient China, the Chinese people avoided cutting their beards; however, no law existed ruling out shaving, and one was free to shave their beard if they so wished.
On the other hand, soldiers and farmers did not follow the philosophy of Confucius and shaved regularly as they found their beards would trouble them during battle and work. Having no beard in Ancient China did define the working class but was in no way frowned upon by high society like it was in many other nations at that time.
Now, Let's Explore The History Of Beard Through Different Periods.
The Middle Ages (5th Century – 15th Century):
This was a time of rising for Germanic tribes and Christianity, and both had opposite views about beard growth.
Beards were an essential part of the Germanic tribe's identity, and it was believed to be a symbol of strength, power and honour. If one ever had the desire to shave it, he first had to earn his worth by killing a man in combat. In Christianity however it was the opposite, not having a beard was a sign of purity, but, you were still allowed to grow a beard if you wanted to and it was not frowned upon to have one.
As time went on, beards became increasingly common among men during the middle ages as tribes turned into nations and nations turned into countries. Knights and kings who ruled these countries including William the Conqueror, King Richard the second, Lionheart and many more all treasured their beards, we know this because in many of their paintings beards have almost always been depicted.
The Renaissance (14th Century – 17th Century):
During the renaissance growing a beard or even using a fake one was considered a taxable offence under King Henry VIII regime, while the rich on the other hand could flaunt their beards as much as they liked. Beards were seen as a sign of masculinity, but this fashion was allowed only for the rich.
In the 17th century however, the trend of shaving was reintroduced. Queen Elizabeth of England despised beards and reinforced the beard tax introduced by Henry VIII. After the renaissance period, Europe continued to be beard free right through until the end of the 18th century.
The 19th Century:
Beards started becoming popular once again during the 19th century. In America, beards gained immense fame, mainly owing to Abraham Lincoln's iconic chin hair. While over the ocean in Europe, beards were also making a came back as many leaders there also started to grow thick beards. Some of the biggest names in high society including Karl Marx, Charles Dickens and Napoleon all had pretty spectacular facial hair that once again made beards a sign of experience, wisdom and wealth and in turn a prevalent trend with the people of that time.
The 20th Century:
During the first world war, every soldier in Europe had to shave off their beard and facial hair to ensure gas masks would tightly secure to their face. After the war ended, the trend of beards had finished with it, and the era of formal dressing had started. Beards during this time were seen as scruffy and untidy, making a clean shave common practice. At that time, some men had a formal pencil moustache, but for the most part that was the only facial hair men would be seen with.
However, thanks to America's hippie culture, and, well, the biggest band on the planet at that time, The Beatles, beards made an entrance back into society during the 60's and '70s from hippies to businessmen and everyone in-between flaunting their new bearded look like beards had just been invented or, well, reinvented.
The 21st Century:
Today beards can once again be seen trickling their way back into society because of the many well-known celebrities who make them fashionable to have. In a world where there are no laws, scepticism or religious stigmas against beard growth, men are now able to flaunt a bearded look to their heart's content freely. From short stubble to fully grown foot long giants, all beards of all shapes and sizes are accepted in today's society no matter your background, social class, nationality or age, and we love to see that beards are regularly being encouraged into the lives of many men all over the world.
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