World Beard Day

Australia saw some major events take place over this past weekend. There was a Federal Election, a change of government and a new prime minister elected. Unfortunately, another historical event taking place on the same day may have gone unnoticed by most: World Beard Day.

This year World Beard Day was celebrated heartily by bearded fellows, beard loving lasses and envious baby-faced boys who hope to someday become that manly, all over the country. Its official origin is unknown, but according to the World Beard Day website “there is some evidence to suggest that Danish Vikings had a special day dedicated to the glorification of beards as far back as 800 AD.” They say that it “was not held on a fixed date, and was often celebrated hundreds of times each year.” These days the event is celebrated annually on the first Saturday of September. The general consensus surrounding the guidelines for the day is that bearded family members are to refrain from doing any type of chore or manual labour, and may have the other non-bearded members at their beck and call to fulfill any command they wish. It is also considered incredibly disrespectful for any man to shave his face on this day.

It may have been mostly overshadowed by other events deemed more newsworthy, but for some it was the story of the day. What is quite possibly Australia’s best newspaper for comedic value and just doing whatever it wants, The NT News embraced World Beard Day with open arms. In keeping with the prominent issue of the day, its front page for Saturday September 7 looked like this:

images_article_2013_09_07_NTnews7-300x0In other political and beard related realms, the campaign video for one independent central Victorian candidate stood out well above the rest. Candidate for the seat of Bendigo, Daniel Abikhair, prepared a 40-second YouTube video outlining why he should be elected to represent Bendigo in the local election. If you hadn’t guessed yet, it’s for his beard.

And finally, Australia’s hirsute heroes The Beards headlined a show at Sydney’s Manning Bar with a number of other bearded Aussie bands, where the bearded were free to be amongst their own kind and celebrate all things beard. The event, which was live-streamed around the world, was hosted by bearded comedian Dave Callan and featured an array of acts, as well as activities such as bearded piggy-back rides and bearded man kissing booths. The Sydney Facial Hair Club also ran and judged a beard competition. The Beards frontman, Johann Beardraven, believed it a conspiracy against the facial hair community of Australia to hold a federal election on World Beard Day; “This is yet another example of our beardless government conspiring against the bearded.”

One should expect next year’s celebrations to be bigger and hairier than before.

Beards through the ages

Throughout the centuries, men have sported many assorted styles of facial hair; the most prominent and eye-catching being the beard. It was not until recent times that the beard had become something of a cultural icon, inspiring cult-like following amongst men and women alike. In recent times society has seen the rise of such things as facial hair related clubs, competitions and music, as well as pop culture motifs and healthcare campaigns. So, where exactly did they come from and what is it about the beard that draws so many people in?

In scientific terms, facial hair occurs as a result of the hormone dihydrotestosterone stimulating the hair follicles on a person’s face and/or neck. This hormone is also linked with balding, so unfortunately for some men they are robbed of the privilege of sporting both hairy features. In ancient times throughout history, the beard was considered a symbol of wisdom, honour and power. It was not uncommon for a man’s beard to be cut off or shaved as a punishment in places like Ancient India and Greece. In Ancient Macedon, Alexander the Great declared that all of his soldiers must remain clean shaven as he was worried that their beards may be grabbed and used as handles by their enemies. Notable bearded figures much later in time included Karl Marx, Abraham Lincoln and Charles Dickens. As the centuries went by, the beard faded in and out of fashion.  By the end of the 20th century, the full beard had become a rare sight among men, with close-clipped and two-day shadow styles becoming the preferred looks.

It is now mid-2013 and the beard is making a resurgence with force. Beard clubs are forming left and right for men from all walks of life to share their passion for facial hair with one another, as well as the women who support them. Beard growing competitions are becoming more and more popular, where the men are separated from the boys and they are recognised and celebrated for their manliness; the most prominent of these being the World Beard and Moustache Championships. If the increasing number of clubs for bearded men weren’t enough, there is also a band whose sole purpose is to spread their love of beards with the world. The Beards, from Adelaide, South Australia, comprises of four burly, heavily bearded blokes who perform songs about all aspects of beards, bearded life, their comical loathing for clean shaven men and beard loving ladies.

It is difficult to determine one single reason for the beard’s popularity in society today. If one thing is for certain, it can only continue to grow as they do.