A beard is the collection of hair that grows on the chin and cheeks of humans and some non-human animals. In humans, usually only pubescent or adult males are able to grow beards. From an evolutionary viewpoint the beard is a part of the broader category of androgenic hair. It is a vestigial trait from a time when humans had hair on their face and entire body like the hair on gorillas. The evolutionary loss of hair is pronounced in some populations such as indigenous Americans and some east Asian populations, who have less facial hair, whereas people of European, Mediterranean, and South Asian ancestry and the Ainu have more facial hair. Beard trim styles.
Societal attitudes toward male beards have varied widely depending on factors such as prevailing cultural-religious traditions and the current era's fashion trends. Some religions (such as Sikhism ) have considered a full beard to be essential for all males able to grow one, and mandate it as part of their official dogma. Other cultures, even while not officially mandating it, view a beard as central to a man's virility, exemplifying such virtues as wisdom, strength, sexual prowess and high social status. However, in cultures where facial hair is uncommon (or currently out of fashion), beards may be associated with poor hygiene or a "savage", uncivilized, or even dangerous demeanor.
Biology [ edit ]
The beard develops during puberty. Beard growth is linked to stimulation of hair follicles in the area by dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which continues to affect beard growth after puberty. Various hormones stimulate hair follicles from different areas. DHT, for example, may also promote short-term pogonotrophy (i.e., the growing of facial hair). For example, a scientist who chose to remain anonymous spent several weeks on a remote island in comparative isolation. He noticed that his beard growth diminished, but the day before he was due to leave the island it increased again, reaching unusually high rates of growth during the first day or two on the mainland. He studied the effect and concluded that the stimulus for increased beard growth was related to the resumption of sexual activity.
However, at that time professional pogonologists, such as R.M. Hardisty, dismissed a connection.
Despite DHT's relationship with terminal body and facial hair growth, the dominant hormone in facial hair development is likely the male sex hormone testosterone, with DHT more closely associated with beard growth speed rather than density (or "coverage"); moreover, neither hormone acts alone, depending instead on the quantity of androgen receptors on the face. Subjects with a greater preponderance of receptors will develop more terminal adult facial hairs.
Beard growth rate is also genetic.
An individual's genes determine the anagen phase of hair in different parts of the body. The anagen phase is the amount of time a hair follicle will grow before the hair falls out and is replaced by a new hair. This in turn determines the length of the hair on that part of the body.
The hairs of a bushy beard will have a relatively long anagen phase. The hairs of some men have shorter anagen phases and consequently have sparser shorter beards. The facial hair of most women and children has a very short anagen phase. Genes also determine whether the hair is a thick terminal hair like that of a bristle or a fine vellus hair like that on a child or womans face.
Evolution [ edit ]
Biologists characterize beards as a secondary sexual characteristic because they are unique to one sex, yet do not play a direct role in reproduction. Charles Darwin first suggested possible evolutionary explanation of beards in his work The Descent of Man , which hypothesized that the process of sexual selection may have led to beards.
Modern biologists have reaffirmed the role of sexual selection in the evolution of beards, concluding that there is evidence that a majority of females find men with beards more attractive than men without beards.
Evolutionary psychology explanations for the existence of beards include signalling sexual maturity and signalling dominance by increasing perceived size of jaws, and clean-shaved faces are rated less dominant than bearded.
Some scholars assert that it is not yet established whether the sexual selection leading to beards is rooted in attractiveness (inter-sexual selection) or dominance (intra-sexual selection).
A beard can be explained as an indicator of a male's overall condition.
The rate of facial hairiness appears to influence male attractiveness.
The presence of a beard makes the male vulnerable in fights, which is costly, so biologists have speculated that there must be other evolutionary benefits that outweigh that drawback.
History [ edit ]
Ancient and classical world [ edit ]
Lebanon [ edit ]
The ancient Semitic civilization situated on the western, coastal part of the Fertile Crescent and centered on the coastline of modern Lebanon gave great attention to the hair and beard. The beard has mostly a strong resemblance to that affected by the Assyrians, familiar from their sculptures. It is arranged in three, four, or five rows of small tight curls, and extends from ear to ear around the cheeks and chin. Sometimes, however, in lieu of the many rows, there is one row only, the beard falling in tresses, which are curled at the extremity. There is no indication of the Phoenicians having cultivated mustachios.
Mesopotamia [ edit ]
Mesopotamian men of Semitic origin (Akkadians, Assyrians, Babylonians and Chaldeans) devoted great care to oiling and dressing their beards, using tongs and curling irons to create elaborate ringlets and tiered patterns. Unlike them, the non-Semitic Sumerian men tended to shave off their facial hair (which is especially notable, for example, in the numerous statues of Gudea, a ruler of Lagash, as opposed to the depiction of the roughly contemporaneous Semitic ruler of Akkad, Naram-Sin, on his victory stele).
The highest ranking Ancient Egyptians grew hair on their chins which was often dyed or hennaed (reddish brown) and sometimes plaited with interwoven gold thread. A metal false beard, or postiche, which was a sign of sovereignty, was worn by kings and (occasionally) ruling queens. This was held in place by a ribbon tied over the head and attached to a gold chin strap, a fashion existing from about 3000 to 1580 BC.
In Ancient India, the beard was allowed to grow long, a symbol of dignity and of wisdom, especially by ascetics ( sadhu ). The nations in the east generally treated their beards with great care and veneration, and the punishment for licentiousness and adultery was to have the beard of the offending parties publicly cut off.
Confucius held that the human body was a gift from one's parents to which no alterations should be made. Aside from abstaining from body modifications such as tattoos, Confucians were also discouraged from cutting their hair, fingernails or beards. To what extent people could actually comply with this ideal depended on their profession; farmers or soldiers probably would not have grown a long beard because it would interfere with their work.
Most of the clay soldiers in the Terracotta Army have mustaches or goatees.
The Iranians were fond of long beards, and almost all the Iranian kings had a beard. In Travels by Adam Olearius, a king commands his steward's head to be cut off and then remarks, "What a pity it was, that a man possessing such fine mustachios, should have been executed." Men in the Achaemenid era wore long beards, with warriors adorning theirs with jewelry. Men also commonly wore beards during the Safavid and Qajar eras.
Greece [ edit ]
The ancient Greeks regarded the beard as a badge or sign of virility ; in the Homeric epics, it had almost sanctified significance, and a common form of entreaty was to touch the beard of the person addressed.
It was shaven only as a sign of mourning; it was then instead often left untrimmed. A smooth face was regarded as a sign of effeminacy.
The Spartans punished cowards by shaving off a portion of their beards. From the earliest times, however, the shaving of the upper lip was common. Greek beards were also frequently curled with tongs.
Greek Macedonia [ edit ]
Alexander strongly promoted shaving during his reign in the 4th century BC because he believed it looked tidier.
Reportedly, Alexander ordered his soldiers to be clean-shaven, fearing that their beards would serve as handles for their enemies to grab and to hold the soldier as he was killed. The practice of shaving spread from the Macedonians, whose kings are represented on coins, etc. with smooth faces, throughout the whole known world of the Macedonian Empire. Laws were passed against it, without effect, at Rhodes and Byzantium ; and even Aristotle conformed to the new custom,
unlike the other philosophers, who retained the beard as a badge of their profession. A man with a beard after the Macedonian period implied a philosopher,
Shaving seems to have not been known to the Romans during their early history (under the kings of Rome and the early Republic). Pliny tells us that P. Ticinius was the first who brought a barber to Rome, which was in the 454th year from the founding of the city (that is, around 299 BC). Scipio Africanus was apparently the first among the Romans who shaved his beard. However, after that point, shaving seems to have caught on very quickly, and soon almost all Roman men were clean-shaven; being clean-shaven became a sign of being Roman and not Greek. Only in the later times of the Republic did the Roman youth begin shaving their beards only partially, trimming it into an ornamental form; prepubescent boys oiled their chins in hopes of forcing premature growth of a beard.
Clean beard styles
Still, beards remained rare among the Romans throughout the Late Republic and the early Principate. In a general way, in Rome at this time, a long beard was considered a mark of slovenliness and squalor. The censors L. Veturius and P. Licinius compelled M. Livius, who had been banished, on his restoration to the city, to be shaved, and to lay aside his dirty appearance, and then, but not until then, to come into the Senate.
The first occasion of shaving was regarded as the beginning of manhood, and the day on which this took place was celebrated as a festival.
Usually, this was done when the young Roman assumed the toga virilis . Augustus did it in his twenty-fourth year, Julius Caesar in his twentieth. The hair cut off on such occasions was consecrated to a god. Thus Nero put his into a golden box set with pearls, and dedicated it to Jupiter Capitolinus.
The Romans, unlike the Greeks, let their beards grow in time of mourning; so did Augustus for the death of Julius Caesar.
Other occasions of mourning on which the beard was allowed to grow were, appearance as a reus, condemnation, or some public calamity. On the other hand, men of the country areas around Rome in the time of Varro seem not to have shaved except when they came to market every eighth day, so that their usual appearance was most likely a short stubble.
In the second century AD the Emperor Hadrian, according to Dion Cassius, was the first of all the Caesars to grow a beard; Plutarch says that he did it to hide scars on his face. This was a period in Rome of widespread imitation of Greek culture, and many other men grew beards in imitation of Hadrian and the Greek fashion. Until the time of Constantine the Great the emperors appear in busts and coins with beards; but Constantine and his successors until the reign of Phocas, with the exception of Julian the Apostate, are represented as beardless.
Celts and Germanic tribes [ edit ]
Late Hellenistic sculptures of Celts
portray them with long hair and mustaches but beardless.
Among the Gaelic Celts of Scotland and Ireland, men typically let their facial hair grow into a full beard, and it was often seen as dishonourable for a Gaelic man to have no facial hair.
Tacitus states that among the Catti, a Germanic tribe (perhaps the Chatten ), a young man was not allowed to shave or cut his hair until he had slain an enemy. The Lombards derived their name from the great length of their beards (Longobards – Long Beards). When Otto the Great said anything serious, he swore by his beard, which covered his breast.
Middle Ages [ edit ]
For instance, the Castilian knight El Cid is described in The Lay of the Cid as "the one with the flowery beard". Holding somebody else's beard was a serious offence that had to be righted in a duel.
While most noblemen and knights were bearded, the Catholic clergy were generally required to be clean-shaven. This was understood as a symbol of their celibacy. The adoption of different beard styles and personal grooming had great cultural and political significance in the Early Middle Ages.
In pre-Islamic Arabia, men would apparently keep mustaches but shave the hair on their chins. Muhammad encouraged his followers to do the opposite, long chin hair but trimmed mustaches, to signify their break with the old religion. This style of beard subsequently spread along with Islam during the Muslim expansion in the Middle Ages.
From the Renaissance to the present day [ edit ]
Most Chinese emperors of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) appear with beards or mustaches in portraits. The exceptions are the Jianwen and Tianqi emperors, probably due to their youth - both died in their early 20s.
During the Chinese Qing dynasty (1644–1911), the ruling Manchu minority were either clean-shaven or at most wore mustaches, in contrast to the Han majority who still wore beards in keeping with the Confucian ideal.
In the beginning of the 17th century, the size of beards decreased in urban circles of Western Europe. In the second half of the century, being clean-shaven gradually become more common again, so much so that in 1698, Peter the Great of Russia ordered men to shave off their beards, and in 1705 levied a tax on beards in order to bring Russian society more in line with contemporary Western Europe.
19th century [ edit ]
During the early nineteenth century, most men, particularly among the nobility and upper classes, went clean-shaven. There was, however, a dramatic shift in the beard's popularity during the 1850s, with it becoming markedly more popular.
The beard became linked in this period with notions of masculinity and male courage.
The resulting popularity has contributed to the stereotypical Victorian male figure in the popular mind, the stern figure clothed in black whose gravitas is added to by a heavy beard.
20th century [ edit ]
By the early twentieth century, beards began a slow decline in popularity. Although retained by some prominent figures who were young men in the Victorian period (like Sigmund Freud ), most men who retained facial hair during the 1920s and 1930s limited themselves to a moustache or a goatee (such as with Marcel Proust, Albert Einstein, Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Adolf Hitler, and Joseph Stalin ). However, the later 20th and early 21st centuries saw beards making a comeback, particularly in the hippie and biker subcultures of the 1960s and the hipster movement of the 2010s.
In China, the revolution of 1911 and subsequent May Fourth Movement of 1919 led the Chinese to idealise the West as more modern and progressive than themselves. This included the realm of fashion, and Chinese men began shaving their faces and cutting their hair short. Moustaches were however, still worn by prominent figures like Sun Yat-Sen, Chiang Kai-shek and Lu Xun.
In the United States, meanwhile, popular movies portrayed heroes with clean-shaven faces and " crew cuts ". Concurrently, the psychological mass marketing of Madison Avenue was becoming prevalent, and makers of safety razors were among these marketers' early clients, including The Gillette Company and the American Safety Razor Company. The phrase five o'clock shadow , as a pejorative for stubble, was coined circa 1942 in advertising for Gem Blades, by the American Safety Razor Company, and entered popular usage. These events conspired to popularise short hair and clean-shaven faces as the only acceptable style for decades to come. The few men who wore the beard or portions of the beard during this period were frequently either elderly, Central European, members of a religious sect that required it, sailors, or in academia.
Beards in religion [ edit ]
Beards also play an important role in some religions.
In Greek mythology and art, Zeus and Poseidon are always portrayed with beards, but Apollo never is. A bearded Hermes was replaced with the more familiar beardless youth in the 5th century BC. Zoroaster, the 11th/10th century BC era founder of Zoroastrianism is almost always depicted with a beard.
Christianity [ edit ]
Iconography and art dating from the 4th century onward almost always portray Jesus with a beard. In paintings and statues most of the Old Testament Biblical characters such as Moses and Abraham and Jesus' New Testament disciples such as St Peter appear with beards, as does John the Baptist. However, Western European art generally depicts John the Apostle as clean-shaven, to emphasize his relative youth. Eight of the figures portrayed in the painting entitled The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci are bearded. Mainstream Christianity holds Isaiah Chapter 50: Verse 6 as a prophecy of Christ's crucifixion, and as such, as a description of Christ having his beard plucked by his tormentors.
In Eastern Christianity, members of the priesthood and monastics often wear beards, and religious authorities at times have recommended or required beards for all male believers.
In the 1160s Burchardus, the abbot of the Cistercian monastery of Bellevaux in the Franche-Comté, wrote a treatise on beards.
He regarded beards as appropriate for lay brothers but not for the priests among the monks.
At various times in its history and depending on various circumstances, the Catholic Church in the West permitted or prohibited facial hair (barbae nutritio – literally meaning "nourishing a beard") for clergy.
A decree of the beginning of the 6th century in either Carthage or the south of Gaul forbade clerics to let their hair and beards grow freely. The phrase "nourishing a beard" was interpreted in different ways, either as imposing a clean-shaven face or only excluding a beard that was too long. In relatively modern times, the first pope to wear a beard was Pope Julius II, who, in 1511–1512, did so as a sign of mourning for the loss of the city of Bologna. Pope Clement VII let his beard grow at the time of the sack of Rome (1527) and kept it. All his successors did so until the death in 1700 of Pope Innocent XII. Since then, no pope has worn a beard. Most Latin-rite clergy are now clean-shaven, but Capuchins and some others are bearded. Present canon law is silent on the matter.
Although most Protestant Christians regard the beard as a matter of choice, some have taken the lead in fashion by openly encouraging its growth as "a habit most natural, scriptural, manly, and beneficial" ( C. H. Spurgeon ).
"There is no doubt that Cranmer mourned the dead king ( Henry VIII )", and it was said that he showed his grief by growing a beard. However,
"It was a break from the past for a clergyman to abandon his clean-shaven appearance which was the norm for late medieval priesthood; with Luther providing a precedent [during his exile period], virtually all the continental reformers had deliberately grown beards as a mark of their rejection of the old church, and the significance of clerical beards as an aggressive anti-Catholic gesture was well recognised in mid- Tudor England."
Male members of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite in Moundridge, Kansas, refrain from shaving as they see man created in the image of God, and as God has a beard. They see their church as the One True Church. One of their tracts stresses the necessity of being bearded.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints [ edit ]
particularly those that serve in ecclesiastical leadership positions.
The church's encouragement of men's shaving has no theological basis, but stems from the general waning of facial hair's popularity in Western society during the twentieth century and its association with the hippie and drug culture aspects of the counterculture of the 1960s, and has not been a permanent rule.
After Joseph Smith, many of the early presidents of the LDS Church, such as Brigham Young and Lorenzo Snow, wore beards. Since David O. McKay became church president in 1951, most LDS Church leaders have been clean-shaven. The church maintains no formal policy on facial hair for its general membership.
However, formal prohibitions against facial hair are currently enforced for young men providing two-year missionary service.
which states in part: "Men are expected to be clean-shaven; beards are not acceptable", although male BYU students are permitted to wear a neatly groomed moustache.
A beard exception is granted for "serious skin conditions",
and for approved theatrical performances, but until 2015 no exception was given for any other reason, including religious convictions.
In January 2015, BYU clarified that students who want a beard for religious reasons, like Muslims or Sikhs, may be granted permission after applying for an exception.
BYU students led a campaign to loosen the beard restrictions in 2014,
but it had the opposite effect at Church Educational System schools: some who had previously been granted beard exceptions were found no longer to qualify, and for a brief period the LDS Business College required students with a registered exception to wear a "beard badge", which was likened to a " badge of shame ". Some students also join in with shaming their fellow beard-wearing students, even those with registered exceptions.
Hinduism [ edit ]
The ancient text followed regarding beards depends on the Deva and other teachings, varying according to whom the devotee worships or follows. Many Sadhus, Yogis, or Sannyasi keep beards, and represent all situations of life. Shaivite ascetics generally have beards, as they are not permitted to own anything, which would include a razor. The beard is also a sign of a nomadic and ascetic lifestyle.
Vaishnava devotees, typically of the ISKCON sect, are often clean-shaven as a sign of cleanliness.
Judaism [ edit ]
The Bible states in Leviticus 19:27, "You shall not round off the corners of your heads, nor mar the corners of your beard." Talmudic tradition explains it to mean that a man may not shave his beard with a razor with a single blade, since the cutting action of the blade against the skin "mars" the beard. Because scissors have two blades, some opinions in halakha (Jewish law) permit their use to trim the beard, as the cutting action comes from contact of the two blades, and not the blade against the skin. For this reason, some poskim (Jewish legal deciders) rule that Orthodox Jews may use electric razors to remain clean-shaven, as such shavers cut by trapping the hair between the blades and the metal grating, halakhically a scissor-like action. Other poskim, like Zokon Yisrael KiHilchso,
maintain that electric shavers constitute a razor-like action, and consequently prohibit their use.
The Zohar , one of the primary sources of Kabbalah ( Jewish mysticism ), attributes holiness to the beard, specifying that hairs of the beard symbolize channels of subconscious holy energy that flows from above to the human soul. Therefore, most Hasidic Jews, for whom Kabbalah plays an important role in their religious practice, traditionally do not remove or even trim their beards.
Traditional Jews refrain from shaving, trimming the beard, and haircuts during certain times of the year, like Passover, Sukkot, the Counting of the Omer, and the Three Weeks. Cutting the hair is also restricted during the 30-day mourning period after the death of a close relative, known in Hebrew as the Shloshim (thirty).
According to the Shia scholars, as per Sunnah, the length of beard should not exceed the width of a fist. Trimming of facial hair is allowed, however, shaving it is haram (religiously forbidden).
Allowing the beard (lihyah in Arabic) to grow and trimming the moustache is obligatory according to the Sunnah in Islam by consensus
Ibn Hazm reported that there was scholarly consensus that it is an obligation to trim the moustache and let the beard grow. He quoted a number of hadith as evidence, including the hadith of Ibn Umar quoted above, and the hadith of Zayd ibn Arqam in which Mohammed said: "Whoever does not remove any of his moustache is not one of us".
: "This is the way of our colleagues [i.e., group of scholars]". Inversely, in Turkish culture, moustaches are common.
The extent of the beard is from the cheekbones, level with the channel of the ears, until the bottom of the face. It includes the hair that grows on the cheeks. Hair on the neck is not considered a part of the beard and can be removed.
In spite of all of this, many religious Muslim men today, including some scholars, shave their cheeks or are even clean-shaven. Shaving is widely accepted de facto if not de jure, with the exception of the Salafi movement.
Men's mustache and beard styles
In Bukhari and Muslim, Muhammad said, "Five things are part of nature: to get circumcised, to remove the hair below one's navel, to trim moustaches and nails, and remove the hair under the armpit."
Rastafari movement [ edit ]
Male Rastafarians wear beards in conformity with injunctions given in the Bible, such as Leviticus 21:5: "They shall not make any baldness on their heads, nor shave off the edges of their beards, nor make any cuts in their flesh." The beard is a symbol of the covenant between God ( Jah or Jehovah in Rastafari usage) and his people.
Sikhism [ edit ]
Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru, commanded the Sikhs to maintain unshorn hair, recognizing it as a necessary adornment of the body by Almighty God as well as a mandatory Article of Faith. Sikhs consider the beard to be part of the nobility and dignity of their manhood. Sikhs also refrain from cutting their hair and beards out of respect for the God-given form. Kesh, uncut hair, is one of the Five Ks, five compulsory articles of faith for a baptized Sikh. As such, a Sikh man is easily identified by his turban and uncut hair and beard.
Modern prohibition of beards [ edit ]
Civilian prohibitions [ edit ]
Beards may be prohibited in jobs which require the wearing of breathing masks,
including airline pilots,
and the oil and gas industry.
The Japanese municipality of Isesaki, Gunma decided to ban beards for male employees on May 19, 2010.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has found that employers may not require clean shaving without good reason, since this has a discriminatory effect against a large number of black men who are prone to razor bumps.
Sports [ edit ]
In 2009, after a Muslim boxer was stopped from competing due to his beard, the ABAE prohibited beards for all competitors so that all faiths would be treated fairly, but in 2018, they permitted beards for all.
The reasons previously expressed for concern were that beard hair could enter an opponent's open wound, or make it harder to treat a wound on the bearded competitor.
Armed forces [ edit ]
Depending on the country and period, facial hair was either prohibited in the army or an integral part of the uniform. For example, the French Foreign Legion's combat engineers are all required to be bearded.
Styles [ edit ]
Beard hair is most commonly removed by shaving or by trimming with the use of a beard trimmer. If hair is left only on the chin, the style is a goatee.
Chinstrap: a beard with long sideburns that comes forward and ends under the chin.
Chin curtain: similar to the chinstrap beard but covers the entire chin.
Shenandoah: similar to the chinstrap. All Amish men are required to grow a beard of this style after marriage.
Designer stubble: A short growth of the male beard that was popular in the West in the 1980s, and experienced a revival in popularity in the 2010s.
Goatee: A tuft of hair grown on the chin, sometimes resembling that of a billy goat.
Hulihee: Clean-shaven chin with fat chops connected at the moustache.
Sideburns: Hair grown from the temples down the cheeks towards the jawline.
Soul patch: a small tuft of hair grown just below the lower lip and above the chin.
Beards are sometimes the subject of art
and competition. The World Beard and Moustache Championships take place every other year; contestants are evaluated by creativeness and uniqueness among other criteria. The longest beard that a person has ever possessed was 17 feet long and belonged to Hans Langseth
(the longest beard of a living person is 8 feet
See also [ edit ]
References [ edit ]
Further reading [ edit ]
Reginald Reynolds: Beards: Their Social Standing, Religious Involvements, Decorative Possibilities, and Value in Offence and Defence Through the Ages (Doubleday, 1949) ( ISBN 0-15-610845-3 )
A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, David W. Bercot, Editor, pg 66–67.