Beards and moustaches have come in and out of fashion numerous times over the years. One minute they are enjoying widespread popularity and the next they have been shot down with relative disfavour. Today you only have to walk down the street to realise that beards have come back with a bang and a half!
Once associated with the unkempt and lazy beards are now the ultimate accessory for the most masculine of men; a display of male virility, an expression of religious or social conformity and as a symbol of rebellion! It’s time to throw away your razors as we take you on a journey of beards through time..
From around 1700, hair completely disappeared from men’s faces all across Europe. Facial hair had become associated with a rough, rustic stereotype, which went against the smooth skin of the ‘polite’ gentleman. This neat, streamlined appearance lasted the best part of 150 years. It was shaving that represented manly attributes, as it required patience, fortitude and stoicism in the face of discomfort. A morning shave put a gentleman “in a frame of mind favourable to his moral improvement”.
That said, there were a few attempts to bring about the return of facial hair. The early 1800s saw a trend for side-whiskers, which became extremely popular that some clever traders began to peddle false whiskers to men who wanted an instant fix. In the 1840s, spurred on by the successes of British cavalry soldiers in the field, men began to grow moustaches in imitation of these new, ‘ultra-masculine’ heroes.
It was from the 1850s that full, thick beards quickly became a necessity for a gentleman. Why, though, did men apparently turn to the beard with such enthusiasm at this precise point in time?
Some believed that years of relatively ‘soft’ living and comfort had drained the British male, leaving him in no condition to respond to the ever-troubling French military threat. The constraints of both home and workplace had served to confine numbers of Victorian men indoors for much of the time, creating a tension between ideas about the male body as being perfectly evolved for work outside in harsh elements, and to conquer the wild versus the reality of a life largely spent inside an office or factory. Advocates of a more physical model of manliness looking for an ideal sign or emblem of masculinity upon which they could hang their ideas found the perfect example in the beard.
Willie Duff and his grandson, circa 1850.
In the early 1900s men began to prefer a more clean shaven look than the full beard and so the Handlebar moustache was born. At this time it was thought that beards carried germs and the handlebar moustache was a way for men to still carry some facial hair.
During the 1950s the goatee was introduced as a cleaner look to the moustache and beard.
During the 1970s the horseshoe moustache was popular with bikers and wrestlers, the most famous example being Hulk Hogan!
The full moustache came back into fashion in the 1980s thanks to Tom’s Selleck’s moustache a.k.a The Chevron on the popular t.v show Magnum P.I
Tom Selleck in Magnum P.I
Although you might still see some of the above styles in your everyday life the most popular beard today is nicknamed the Lumbersexual.
In a 2013 study by the Official Journal of Human Behaviour and Evolution Society found that men with full beards are seen as more attractive, healthier and masculine! But we knew that already!