Back to anecdotes about the ups and downs of facial hair, from ancient Egypt to the hipsters and lumbersexuals of the 21st century. A hairy story. Back to the most famous beards in history.
Although hipsters pride themselves on having made beards fashionable and even invented them, the reality is that beards have existed since time immemorial. If we were to mention famous bearded men, surely actors, athletes, musicians and even the Magi, Santa Claus, the magician Merlin or six of the Seven Dwarves come to mind, to name but a few examples.
The first Saturday of September is celebrated as World Beard Day.
A good excuse to remember the most famous beards in history, as well as those from the cinema, fashion and sports …
In its origins in ancient Egypt, beards were used, as a demonstration of power, by both pharaohs and their wives, as a natural or false look, dyed, braided with gold thread or tied to the head with a cord.
And although Conchita Wurst tried to make it fashionable again for women, when she won the Eurovision Song Contest 2014, the truth is that it is still a male attribute, symbolizing the transition from childhood to youth, and virility.
For centuries, it was a symbol of masculinity and strength…
Science equates the beard in men to the mane of male lions because, in both cases, it allows them to appear larger and thus intimidate their opponents. And just as a lion’s mane protects their neck, men’s beards protect their jaws, teeth and chin from blows during a fight.
The Sumerians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Chaldeans and other Mesopotamian civilizations used pliers to style them with simple or elaborate curls. And the Persians wore them for a long time. The Greeks also curled them, considering them a sign of virility and shaved them only as a sign of mourning or punishment, since a face without them was considered effeminate.
… Until shaving
Shaving was introduced in the time of Alexander the Great, who ordered his soldiers not to wear beards, as they could be used by their enemies to knock them off their horses. The Romans also joined the shaving trend to distinguish themselves from the Greeks. And unlike them, they let it grow as a sign of mourning. For this reason, many peoples who were enemies of the Romans, such as the Celts and the Germans, wore it for a long time to differentiate themselves from them and as a symbol of freedom.
Until Emperor Hadrian did it to hide the scars on his face or to follow the Greek fashion, and the beard became fashionable among the Romans.
By the 15th century, most European men were closely shaved. In the 16th century they were allowed to grow to the chest, and in the following centuries they had good or bad press and were arranged in different ways depending on the country or religion to which they belonged. However, Shakespeare and Cervantes, for example, wore it cut and pointed.
In the 18th century, Peter the Great of Russia created a beard tax. This was to prevent men from wearing it. The reason? They had gone out of fashion in Europe and America, where shaving differentiated the upper classes from the working classes.
In the middle of the 19th century it became fashionable again. Especially among sovereigns, such as Alexander III of Russia, Napoleon III of France, Frederick III of Germany. And politicians such as Giuseppe Garibaldi, Karl Marx, and Abraham Lincoln.
The arrival of the moustache and the return of the beard in History
During the 20s and 30s the moustache was imposed. Like those of Marcel Proust, Albert Einstein or Adolf Hitler. The beard, either goatee (like Trotsky and Lenin) or well-populated, was considered to be left-wing. Indeed, it was popularized among workers and trade unionists. Hollywood therefore opted to shave for its male leads.
And it wasn’t until the 1960s that hippies brought back the beard as a sign of modernity. With the invaluable support of musicians of all styles! From Bob Marley to the Eagles, through the famous ZZ Top bearded or the Beatles. in his last days. Precisely in 1966, when Dior launched its first men’s fragrance, Eau Savage. It used a bearded man like Alain Delon in its advertisements.
Since the 80s and 90s, the so-called “two or three-day beard” has become fashionable. We are looking for naturalness through a carefree look. But many rock bands and orthodox Jews, Amish and Sikhs wore it for a long time.
History: is the relationship between the beard and certain religions close?
In Christian iconography, the majority of characters from the Old Testament (such as Moses and Abraham), and the New Testament (such as Jesus and several of his disciples), are represented with beards.
Muslims consider beards to be commendable. The men who wear it follow the example of Muhammad. And most consider it obligatory.
The Torah forbids cutting off a beard with a razor. But it can be done with scissors or a razor. And for Kabbalah, a beard is not just the hair that grows on the face. It is also the bridge that connects the mind and the heart, thoughts and actions, theory and practice, good intentions and facts. For this reason, many Hasidic Jews who practice Kabbalah do not shave or trim their beards.
The different reasons why beards are forbidden in certain professions
In some professions, beards are prohibited or discouraged for safety reasons. Although it depends on the country. For example between pilots and firefighters to facilitate the airtightness of their oxygen or gas masks. And the same thing happens in the army.
In some hospitality and tourist services companies. Image reasons are supposed to avoid it in positions that require public attention. And then there is a case, without explanation, like the one in the Japanese city of Isezaki. In 2010, municipal employees were banned from wearing beards. Just like that.
In the United States, some baseball teams (like the Cincinnati Reds and the Yankees) have banned their players from wearing long hair or beards for years. However, the “play-off beard” is a tradition in the National Hockey League. Players grow beards from the beginning of the play-off season to the end of the play-off season. According to tradition, this brings them good luck.
In sumo wrestling, beards and mustaches are prohibited, not only for wrestlers but also for referees.
It is only at the beginning of the 21st century that long beards become fashionable again. With the emergence of urban tribes and the taste of millennia for aesthetics in particular. Be it that of hipsters or lumberjacks. And recently, in reaction to metrosexuals, “lumbersexuals” have appeared. The name comes from the wood (in English, woods) and the lumberjack (in English, logger). And whose characteristics are the checkered shirt and a thick beard. But that will be another story…