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.