History of the Beard
The Hair of Your Chinny-Chin-Chin
From ancient Greeks to lumbersexuals, beards have a history
“Today, beards are everywhere…our ancient ancestors would be bristling with pride.”
By Janis Hashe
Anthropologists tell us that facial hair, including beard and stache, is a “vestigal trait” from when humans had hair…everywhere. These same anthropologists theorize that back in the really old days, some males removed hair by scraping it off with two shells. Ouch!
Luckily, the beard has come a long way, and are on the faces of men everywhere! Let’s take a quick look at the ins and outs of beard fashion.
The ancient Greeks loved beards and viewed them as signs of virility, but when Alexander the Great came along, he preferred clean-shaven soldiers, seeing the look as “tidier.” Equally soldiery Romans kept up the clean-shaven tradition, but during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in the West, beards had a big resurgence…nowhere was there a depiction of Shakespeare, for example, without his trademark mustache-and-soul patch, or in other cases, full beard.
It’s the later Victorians and Edwardians who take the beard cake, though. Beards, mustaches, and of course, sideburns, reached their hirsute heyday during this period. Fun Fact: No American president had a beard before Abe Lincoln, yet he inspired a tradition of bearded POTUS’s that came after him.
In the early 20th century, beards began to fall out of favor, with Americans anyway, as clean-shaven and crew-cutted GI’s returned from two world wars. Beards were scarce…until the late Fifties, when beatniks grew them to annoy the Establishment, and hippies followed suit with a vengeance.
The 1980s saw another beard decline. Could it be that no man could compete with female hair during that era? But, by the end of the 1990s, beards had once again begun another comeback, especially the “Verdi” beard, fairly close-cropped and integrated with the mustache.
Today, of course, beards are everywhere and in every configuration. Our ancient ancestors would be bristling with pride.
Groom, not grizzle
The beard revival has, of course, resulted in a corresponding revival of beard and mustache care products: beard washes, conditioners, balms and oils. The modern man, for the most part, does not want to look like Grizzly Adams, but more like sexy-and-well-groomed George Clooney. This requires more care for facial hair, including products that help fill in patchiness, condition tough facial hair, and avoid the dreaded “beardruff.”
Products containing argan and jojoba oils to moisturize and soften facial hair, African shea butter to deeply hydrate, and a variety of botanical extracts that encourage healthy hair regrowth are available for daily washing and conditioning. Balms and oils allow the manly, but meticulous to style and shape their beards and facial hair easily and naturally.
Some of the newly bearded population may question if there’s even a need for beard-specific washing and conditioning products. The answer is a resounding “Yes,” and here’s why according to toolsformen.com: “Beard shampoos are designed [without] harmful chemicals that strip out your natural sebum oils. Therefore, beard shampoo effectively gets your beard clean without stripping out the good stuff.
“So, do yourself a favor and stop using that old bottle of generic shampoo and swap it out for a beard shampoo. When you introduce beard shampoo into your regular routine, you will likely see a much healthier beard.”
Are you your beard?
A look at the Wikipedia page on beards reveals no less than 30 different beard types (!) For fun, let’s pick out a few and elaborate on which beard personality is you...
- Balbo Beard: A combination of goatee with a mustache. Hipsters rejoice in this combination. Think Robert Downey Jr.
- Garibaldi Beard: A wide, full beard with a rounded bottom and integrated mustache. Smart but unconventional—think Zach Galifianakis—but also, at times, Brad Pitt.
- Hollywoodian: Beard with integrated mustache worn on the lower part of the chin and jaw area, without connecting sideburns. Here you have your classic Clooney with a side of Leonardo DiCaprio. Whoa.
- Neard: Described as “similar to the chin strap beard, but with chin and jawline shaven, leaving hair growing only on the neck.” Despite being favored by Nero, Thoreau and Wagner, it’s now, perhaps unfairly, associated with tech nerds.
- Lumbersexual: More of a lifestyle than an actual beard, this idea is described by collegecandy.com as “A lumbersexual is somewhere between a bro and a metrosexual.” Is that even possible? In any case, lumberjack chic is still trending, and a bearded Gerard Butler is likely the best exponent of the style.