The beard. An extensively debated topic. Some of you may not think that it is, however, bring it up in a group of mixed company as to whether or not it is attractive and watch the fun. I personally love my beard. I remember wanting to grow one when I was little. I can also remember when I decided to grow my beard. Considering that I have the genetic makeup for growing a fairly thick and even beard I thought “why not?” As it turns out, I can pull it off fairly nicely. Granted it has its draw backs of having to always ask a friend for a beard check after a meal and I don’t get a completely dry face when I get out of the shower. However, there is the plus of automatically being that much more awesome for having a beard. It has even given me a new nickname from my niece Zoe. It was a dark and snowy night, and I was headed over to my sister’s for dinner. After traversing the treacherous, snow covered, and ghetto surrounded CFNI campus, I arrived just in time. I entered the apartment and before I could remove my scarf, peacoat and winter cap, my niece Zoe cheerily greeted me “Hey Captain!” This scenario gave me another reason to keep my sure sign of being manly. There are many who grow beards for various reasons, some because they don’t like shaving; some people say it’s because they like the look of it. The list goes on. Whatever your reason for growing, or not growing, here are some things to consider.
Where does this whole thing of “I can grow hair on my face and I want to show it all off” start? Studies show that it has been around since ancient cultures. The ancient Egyptians would grow just the hair on their chin. Often times they would braid and even dye their beards a reddish brown color or hennaed. Sounds fabulous right? In cases of Kings AND Queens they would use a false metal beard called a postiche that was held in place by a ribbon tied over the head and attached to a gold chin strap. This was used to signify sovereignty, and was even placed on cows in some cases. The ancient Egyptians were not the only ancients to wear beards of course. In the Bible we read about various men of God in ancient times with their bears as well. If you do your reading you will find that the Israelites would leave their beards untrimmed and uncut (Leviticus 19:27). However, the reasons for that is a completely different blog topic which I do not have the time to go into. In ancient India it was a sign of honor to have a bear. In fact, if a man were caught in adultery the punishment would be for the man to have his beard shaven in public. They regarded their beards as being sacred. In some cases they would even offer their beards as a payment of a debt.
In ancient Greece the beard was a sign of virility. In fact most men would only shave their beards as a sign of mourning. Now for those of us who have ever had the thought “Whose blasted idea was it to take a sharp object and drag it across your face and call it professional looking?” Look no further than ancient Macedon and Alexander the Great, or as I now refer to him as the beardless fiend! It is said that he ordered his soldiers to shave their beards for fear of it being a handle for their enemies to grab onto. Some studies show that a law was passed against growing a beard, however this was not applied to the philosophers, due to a beard being a badge of their trade.
The Romans, being fairly similar to the greeks, did not see a barber until 299 BCE. The barber was brought in by none other than Scifio Africanus. This trend of being clean shaven in the Roman culture quickly caught on. Some viewed having a beard to be Greek and a clean shaven to be more Roman. Kinda funny considering modern day Italians are known for being fur bearing mammals. However, this did not stop men from growing their beards. Granted they were more rare and mostly just with the farmers who would shave when they came into time, it was a custom to grow a beard in a time of mourning. However, it is also rumored that the emperor Hadrian was the first of all the caesars to grow a beard to cover the scars on his face. To be honest we all know if he had a beard to begin with, there wouldn’t have been any scars there to cover up.
The Rest of History…ish
In order to save time, I am going to skip ahead a few centuries (more like a millennia) to the middle ages. The beard was a symbol of a knight’s honor. If you were to hold another man’s beard, it was a serious case of “touch this beard and die” because it was the grounds for a duel. Throughout the rest of history the trends of clean shaven and bearded go back and forth from really long to clean shaven again.
There are a vast amount of styles of beards, and considering that I don’t really have a lot of time (mostly patience to research all of them for a blog I’m not getting paid to write) I am going to stick to a few more popular styles and variations. NOTE: This is about beard styles NOT mustaches. Those who have mustaches are barely able to claim the right to having facial hair. Only a few men have ever been able to pull off just the mustache. Among them are: Tom Sellic, Carrey Elwes, Hulk Hogan, & Nick Offerman a.k.a. Ron Swanson. All other men stay away from the nose tickler/lip warmer. Mustaches have been proven to make you look like a man of “questionable nature”.
This is the most easy to spot. This beard covers the face. There is nothing more to it.This Particular beard is very popular amongst many groups. For instance the metal heads. This beard is long and whiplike. It has been forged for one purpose and one purpose only: thrash dancing. Be weary if you are in the pit with one of these. They have been rumored to be armed much like a cat of nine tails. One swipe with this beard and you are out for the count! Aside from the metal heads there are the preppier/business men who decide to go with the half beard. This works well with the work place because it is easy to maintain, and it also sends a message to the ladies of “I may be mostly clean, but I still have a touch of that traditional rugged man.” There is the traditional “lumberjack” beard. This made popular by the one and only Keenen Brown, the Alaskan Polar Bear. This can be short or long, but goes really well with plaid and a chainsaw. If you have a winter cap to go with it better! There is a trendy “cousin” to the “lumberjack”. It is fairly similar to however it is characterized by being slightly more unkept. WARNING! Be very careful to maintain the trendy full beard. There is a fine line between trendy and homeless. DO NOT CROSS THIS LINE!
This is a very popular style. It is also called “The Padlock” because of its shape. It is characterized by the mustache growing into the chin hair as well. Be weary when this gets long, because if those sides of your mustache curl up and your goatee gets longer you could look like a French fiend. Don’t believe me ask Mel Gibson. Many people sport this and it works nicely. Be sure to maintain this, you don’t want to end up like Brad Pitt. Somehow he still managed to make this beard look homeless. Again there is a fine line between trendy and homeless. Side Note: The soul patch is not real facial hair. If anything all you are showing everyone is that you missed a spot when shaving on your chin.
This style is also referred to as “Piccadily Weepers”. This is characterized by growing the sideburns out onto the cheeks. In fact if you think about it, it is essentially the opposite of growing a goatee/mustache combo. This was made popular mostly the folks on the island nation in the atlantic, Tobin Bawinkel from Flatfoot 56 and Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber from X-Men Origins: Wolverine. These things are perfect for sending the message “I am ok with getting in to a brawl with my pint in one hand and your face meeting the other!” or the message “I can’t be killed and I have pointy objects that randomly fly out of the back of my hand so watch it!” Either way you really don’t see these sported much around the office. Be careful when sporting these, barroom brawls have been known to randomly break out.
The beard, albeit furry, manly, etc., is just as big a piece of the world’s history as is anything else that could be considered a fashion. It was a part of culture then and still is now. The styles change minutely, but all remain relatively unchanged. The mustache is still nothing you should tamper with. it is dangerous and only a few men can survive the bundle of trouble it brings.