The Living Dead: A Bearded Journey Through Time
Beards follow a bit of a cycle. It started out as a necessity, fell out of use, and came into fashion once again. It has been on this track since recorded history, and even beyond that. So, all aboard the time machine and let's take a trip down memory lane.
Let see how far back I can take this. Our time machine says "error" and kinda craps out around 1000 B.C so I'm gonna start around there, and make an educated guess for the time before then. Ready? Let's begin!
So we know cave men, or "Primitive Men" as the science world calls them, had beards. But why? There are three main reasons they would grow out their beard, and it's probably a combination of all three; warmth, intimidation, and protection. Beards were common in that era to keep the skin safe, warm, and keep the mouth away from the harsh elements around them. The hair on their face also helps strengthen their jaw-line which would show others they're ready to throw down and fight at the drop of a hat. Lastly, when they would inevitably get into those fights, their beard would help cushion the blow to their face.
This trend of bearded beauty continued for a while, even leading to beard-cutting being used as a form of punishment until Alexander the Great outlawed his soldiers from having beards at all around 345 B.C., for fear of his enemies grabbing them during battle. And rightfully so, the only way to have power during that time period was to show it with force. You wouldn't want to have any sort of disadvantage when the fight starts.
The Celtics we're big fans of the beard as well, with Otto the Great (935 A.D.)swearing by his beard any time he wanted to be taken seriously. In Ancient Egypt, beards were incorporated into the style of each person. They would adorn them with ringlets, dye them various colors, and even plaited them with gold thread.This was mainly for the upper-class individuals like Pharos, Princes, and Merchants. It doesn't stop there though. During the same time period, Mesopotamians were well known for how well-kempt their beards were, often applying beard oil regularly.
Mesopotamia eventually led to the growth of the Roman Empire, and much of the world based their civilization on the way they ran things. Most of the citizens followed the ways of the Emperor, and became completely shaven at the time. This trend was later reversed when one of the emperors, Hadrian, intentionally grew out his beard to hide his facial scars. Many people followed suit, and then beards became common place once again in the Roman Empire and across the world.
Now onto the land that time forgot. Or the.. time that time forgot? Whatever. We're in the Middle Ages now. We see another resurgence of beards among the upper-class. Are you seeing the pattern yet? The cycle? Those in political positions of power grew long, hefty beards. Knights grew facial hair as well but groomed theirs more as a sign of masculinity, honor, and valor. This was short lived though. The Renaissance change the perception of beards and facial hair once again, and most men become completely shaven. A few men, mostly artists, painters, and sculptors, challenged the status quo.
After that little pit stop, we're starting to get to a more recognizable time. The time of the English Crown, specifically Henry VIII (the one who got married a lot). Throughout his entire life, he sported a beard. He even had it on his death bed. But, he was a very self-conscious man. The reason he had all those wives was so he could have a son, and when they didn't give him what he wanted he tossed them out. Anyway, he didn't anyone to rival his beard, so he put a tax on beards! Once his reign was over, Queen Elizabeth I was up on the throne. She didn't really like beards, so she kept the tax in place. Then there was Peter the Great over in Russia. He was a huge fan of western culture, and thus copied the same tax Henry had put in place.
We're getting close to current day, but need to stop in the 19th & 20th centuries first. There goes the cycle again. Beards are once again a large part of society. In fact, they are used to show power and leadership in individuals. Abe Lincoln grew his facial hair out on the advice of an 11-year-old girl because she said her brother would vote for him and that it would help his face look fuller. But he isn't the only notable leader to rock the whiskers: Frederick III of Germany, Charles Dickens, Karl Marx, and Giuseppe Verdito, name a few, all helped popularize beards for the modern century.
It wasn't without a slight hiccup in the 1900's though. During World War I, the Great War as it was known at the time, beard growth was straight up outlawed for soldiers as a gas mask wouldn't fit them properly if they had facial hair. It was also in part to the introduction of the Gillette Safety Razor in 1895. The government now had the tool necessary to elicit such a ban. Most men kept that mindset until after WWII during the hippie movement and Beatlemania in the 1960's and 70's.
Don't fear though, we are still in an upswing, sorta. Some parts of society still have a stigma around beards, that they are less caring, less generous, or less cheerful than their shaving counter-parts. But that doesn't quite make sense to me, as 33% of Americans, and 55% of males around the world, have some kind of beard or facial hair. They are also seen as older, more respected, and of a higher status. So who is the real winner here. Keep on growing and help change that stigma!