Beards in History: The Vikings

Parker Mallouf
Beards in History: The Vikings

Beards Have Been Around for a Long, Long Time

Anyone that has grown a full beard has probably been referred to as a viking at some point in time. The funny thing is, most bearded men probably take that as a compliment. Not exactly sure when the mild obsession with these bearded warriors sparked, but their popularity in modern culture seems to keep growing.

I've become interested in the history of beards and decided to do some research to see what I could find. My results? Beards have been around for a long, long, long time. Although they have seen the ebb and flows of popular trends, beards have been worn by powerful men in a vast variety of cultures and time periods. 

I thought I would touch on several different historical bearded cultures in a the next few weeks to give some insight. Since I personally have been called a viking a time or two,  I thought it would be a good place to start. 

Who Are The Vikings?

From approximately 800 AD - 1066 Vikings roamed both Eastern and Western Europe. They were known for being aggressive invaders and conquerors. The majority of Viking heritage originated in the Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Denmark, and Norway.

Vikings were also known for their craftsmanship of ships in all shapes and sizes. These ships were an integral part of the Viking culture. The ships allowed them to cross bodies of water in exploration and in trade. They also gave the Scandinavian warriors an edge in battle.

Besides Vikings being known for their battle skills, advanced ships, and invasive nature, they were also known for their beards and hair.

I dug a little deeper to find out what exactly an accurate historical representation of a Viking would look like. To my surprise, our representation of their appearance is pretty dang close. 

What Vikings Actually Looked Like

Vikings are also thought of to be dirty, large, burly men. This isn't 100% accurate. Both the males and females in Viking society were actually accustomed to daily hygiene. This doesn't mean they bathed every single day, but they did take care of their skin and hair. Furthermore, they were actually shorter on average than modern men of the same region. This is simply because lack of nutrition and medicine we find in todays society.  

An article over at telegraph.co.uk says that "Scandinavian archaeologists are quick to point out that these depictions are at odds with what they have discovered. One of the first myths to be dispelled is that of dirty, unkempt hair and beards, for among the most prevalent possessions found in Viking burial sites are grooming tools such as combs and tweezers, plus toothpicks and tools for cleaning beneath the fingernails. Vikings, it is now claimed, were possibly far more hygienic and much better groomed than their British opponents".

Combs were actually a staple accessory that most vikings carried around with other every-day supplies. They were typically made of bone, and were used on both their head and beard. These hand-made multi purpose tools were used to keep the beard and hair untangled, and free of any dirt, grime, or bugs.

The overwhelming majority of Viking males had beards. However, they weren't necessarily big, unkempt beards. Their hair although long, was typically kept in a pretty conservative style.

Louise Kæmpe Henriksen of sciencenordic.com claims "from picture sources we know that the Vikings had well-groomed beards and hair. The men had long fringes and short hair on the back of the head."

Some good news however, is Vikings did sport the battle braids you see in the media. Braids were often worn under helmets during battle to keep hair out of the soldiers faces.

Face it, a gnarly beard coupled with a few braids running down the back of your head is nothing short of awesome. Vikings felt the same way when preparing for battle. 

Use The Tools, Get The Look

Although only 1 in 33 men can claim to be of direct Viking decent, this doesn't mean you can't have the look of one! With the proper tools and know-how, you can pull of the most rugged of Nordic styles.

To achieve the perfect Viking look, here's what you'll need: 

Beard Oil

Styling Balm

Sea Salt Spray

Beard Comb

 

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  • Hello, i just wanted to say how well written this article was. I am 1 of the 33 men who can claim my Viking heritage. I have spent a lot of time and money researching where i came from, then had my DNA tested to prove my findings. My family history shows quite a few Viking and even some of high regard. Anyway after learning this about my self, I also wanted to learn how the Vikings lived and pretty mucb everything i discovered was repeated in this article. I think its good for people to as bad as the Vikings were they were at least clean and had badass beards. I myself do wear a beard, and have always been complimented on my hair as well as my beard. So i suppse i have my ancestors to thank for that.

    Brandon Emmons on

  • One tradition not often mentioned when it comes to viking hygiene: Before meals, a bowl with fresh water would be handed to the cheif. He would then wash his hands, face and blow his nose in it. Then the bowl (without changing the water) would be passed on to the next in command, who would repeat the cleaning process. Needless to say I pity the poor basterds last in line for washing up.
    I imagine not even Beardbrands kickass product line could help those last tribesmen after sucha wash.
    Ps. Scientists haven’t found any evidence that vikings had horns on their helmets.
    Beard on!

    Joe Swede on

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