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The century of the beard?

March 26th, 2006

Thanks to a tip from Tim Dunlop, I find that beards are coming back in. Perhaps the fashion for beardless men will prove to be one of the many aberrations of the 20th century. Also in the news, ponies for everyone.

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  1. March 26th, 2006 at 22:19 | #1

    Even the Romans shaved.

    My question is why all the beards in the 19th century? Did it have something to do with getting rid of the wigs?

  2. March 26th, 2006 at 22:21 | #2

    Beards have been variously in and out in different times and places. In his urge to distnace himself from barbarity, Peter the Great taxed beards.

    Confining ourselves to our own direct antecedents, though, beards went in and out in the Middle Ages and appeared to stop on “in” in Elizabethan times, then going out for a long while apart from anomalies like Charles I.

    Beards came back in in late Victorian times, being driven out at the end of the 19th century by gangs of raucous youths mocking their elders and betters by shouting “beaver!” whenever they saw a beard – also an allusion to the obsolete fashion for beaverskin hats.

    In this case too the royal family formed anomalous holdouts, since none dared reproach them for being unfashionable.

    So it is that JQ can follow in the footsteps of our late King-Emperor, George V.

    But you can keep your bloody ponies.

  3. March 26th, 2006 at 22:24 | #3

    Oh, the Romans didn’t always shave. in Hadrian’s era, they deliberately didn’t so as to be more philosophical and Greek (JQ, I wonder…?). Byzantines considered themselves Roman and didn’t shave.

  4. March 26th, 2006 at 22:42 | #4

    Yes Old Hadrian himself had a bit of a taste for Greek.

  5. March 26th, 2006 at 22:55 | #5

    Of course most of the Roman enemies were hairy. So they themselves wanted to be smoooth men.

    I saw a shocking thing last night – an old policeman, leather britches on, near his BMW, directing traffic in the games crowds with a terrific mixture of courtesy and booming voiced power. He stopped a car by seeming to inflate his whole body, arcing it around his pointing finger while he bellowed. “Stop driving! Look at me! Look at my hand. Don’t look at anything else, just my hand..” car slid to a halt instead of piling into a herd of pedestrians.

    Aside from the fact that he looked like a retired Roman centurion defending his farm from Goths, he too wore a beard.

    Times must be changing. Mind you, I never took mine off, stick in the mud that I am.

  6. Hal9000
    March 26th, 2006 at 23:35 | #6

    According to an old hagiography of Abraham Lincoln aired on Saturday (starring Raymond Massey in the title role), the great man first grew his beard on being elected President, having been assured by a schoolgirl correspondent that it would make him look more dignified. I think she may have been correct.

  7. March 26th, 2006 at 23:41 | #7
  8. avaroo
    March 27th, 2006 at 01:02 | #8

    If you ask most women, you’ll find that beards are NOT coming back in. It’s a rare woman who is enamoured of facial hair on men. Sorry guys.

  9. David P
    March 27th, 2006 at 07:39 | #9

    I have a very off and on relationship with my beard. My wife claims she likes me better with it on, whereas I think it makes me look much older (especially since it’s amost entirely grey these days).

    So every year I grow mine, starting on the autumnal equinox, and shave it off on the vernal equinox. A cultivated eccentricity.

  10. Zarquon
    March 27th, 2006 at 07:59 | #10

    The reason for the resurgence of beards will be the safety razor event-horizon when using the latest product from Gillette becomes too silly for words, and guilt-by-association scares off the effete electric shaver-using crowd.

  11. March 27th, 2006 at 08:22 | #11

    What sixty-two blades are too many in a single razor? It reminds me of a skit by “the late show” where they had a twelve blade razor were blade 9 was just a long for the ride.

  12. March 27th, 2006 at 08:26 | #12

    John, I’m not so sure this beard thing is going to take off, particularly amongst those who carry backpacks and ride public transport.

    If I lived in London, I’d be shaving twice a day.

  13. Sean
    March 27th, 2006 at 08:53 | #13

    The narrator in Anthony Burgess’ “Kingdom of the Wicked” thought Romans shaved (and shagged young lads) because they were afraid of their women.

    Averoo, we’re told there’s a man shortage so I guess you’ll just have to suck it up.

    As for me, bloody army made me shave my peach fuzz daily from the age of 17 & one monf. Now that I have gone a year without that tedious daily ritual, I can’t ever see it happening again.

  14. Sean
    March 27th, 2006 at 08:54 | #14

    And where’s my damn ponmy!?!?!

  15. Sean
    March 27th, 2006 at 08:54 | #15


  16. avaroo
    March 27th, 2006 at 10:35 | #16

    “Averoo, we’re told there’s a man shortage so I guess you’ll just have to suck it up.”

    Not here there isn’t. And even if there was, most women still wouldn’t like facial hair. Sorry, but it’s still a sellers market for women.

  17. Sean
    March 27th, 2006 at 14:29 | #17

    Averoo, where is “here”? It’s hard to make gross generalisations about the grooming motivations of your people if you won’t ID them.

    My own research indicates that beard-approval and pain-in-the-rearedness are inversely proportional in the female homo sapien. Were I to find myself single tomorrow, I’d keep the face mane as a way of telling which woman was going to insist that I sell the motorbike after a month or so of conjugal relations.

  18. Seeker
    March 27th, 2006 at 15:21 | #18

    Maybe beards are going out of style because more people are moving to the tropics, in Oz at any rate. Tropical summers and beards are not a good combination. HOT and prickly.

    And me, I fall somewhere in between, only shaving every 5 days or so. This gives me a sort of permanent 3 day growth look, which nowadays comes in a “lovely cracked pepper colour” scheme, according to Mrs Seeker. And who am I to argue? I am just grateful she doesn’t make me shave every day, via the threat of withdrawal of marital favours. It’s these little luxuries that make it all worthwhile. 🙂

  19. Glenn Condell
    March 27th, 2006 at 16:00 | #19

    Just as most women seem to prefer beard-free men, and lots also aren’t real keen on hairy chests etc any more (I know this from experience), most men are apparently turned off by hairy armed or legged women. But like those few women who like a furry chin or chest, there are a subset of blokes who don’t mind ‘hirsute honeys’. Again, I speak from personal experience. I saw a girl the other day with a fair growth on her upper lip and found I experienced no revulsion at all. On the contrary. It helped she had a body like Jennifer Lopez.

    I’m not sure where I’d draw the line, but I wouldn’t mind finding out.

  20. avaroo
    March 27th, 2006 at 16:54 | #20

    “Averoo, where is “hereâ€??”

    For me? The US. ButI’d hazard a guess that even in Australia, more women prefer clean-shaven men to bearded men.

    “My own research indicates that beard-approval and pain-in-the-rearedness are inversely proportional in the female homo sapien.”

    I see you’ve first hand experience that most women don’t like beards.

    “Were I to find myself single tomorrow, I’d keep the face mane as a way of telling which woman was going to insist that I sell the motorbike after a month or so of conjugal relations.”

    Were you single tomorrow (I’m amazed that you are not now frankly), I doubt you’d have to worry much about keeping women away from you because of the beard. I’d imagine your personality would take of it for you rather well.

  21. derrida derider
    March 27th, 2006 at 19:35 | #21

    Of course many women prefer their men to perform an act of symbolic self-castration every day. I’m with Sean – women who find beards a turnoff are not the sort of women I’d want a long-term relationship with.

  22. Sean
    March 27th, 2006 at 20:56 | #22

    I previously stated:

    “My own research indicates that beard-approval and pain-in-the-rearedness are inversely proportional in the female homo sapien.�

    Thanks for confirming the result in lab conditions there, averoo. If you’re ever coming to Sydney, give me some notice so I can stop trimming & grow ‘er out to the full Ned Kelly, just in case I bump into you.

  23. avaroo
    March 27th, 2006 at 20:58 | #23

    “Thanks for confirming the result in lab conditions there, averoo.”

    So how many years does it take for you to get a “month or so of conjugal relations”?

    “If you’re ever coming to Sydney, give me some notice so I can stop trimming & grow ‘er out to the full Ned Kelly, just in case I bump into you. ”

    Highly unlikely.

  24. March 27th, 2006 at 22:20 | #24

    Many women prefer men with genuine genital mutilations. I for one am not going to set my priorities by theirs.

  25. March 28th, 2006 at 07:03 | #25

    Who can afford razor blades these days? It’s almost cheaper to pay a dentist’s bill!

  26. Waratah
    March 28th, 2006 at 07:18 | #26

    derider derider needs a thick-skinned woman who doesn’t get beard rash. One with her own beard perhaps?

  27. Hal9000
    March 28th, 2006 at 11:51 | #27

    Is a full beard more or less likely to produce pash rash than a 12-hour bristle-pad? I ask from ignorance…

  28. March 30th, 2006 at 01:00 | #28

    Full beard is much softer than even an hour or two old shave.

    anyway, beards should be ocming back in. What with topless beaches and all these halter style tops women areshowing offtheir secondary sexual characteristics. So should we.

    I used to do the same as David P. Growit in autumn, shave in the spring. Then again, I was living in Russia where it was valuable insulation.

  29. wilful
    March 30th, 2006 at 09:37 | #29

    An interesting article about pogonotrophy


  30. Waratah
    April 1st, 2006 at 03:24 | #30

    3-7 day old long scant stubble is in, yes fresh regrowth the biggest offender.

    secondary sexual characteristics = men wearing halter neck midriff tops too? there are a lot of man boobies on the streets these days and singlets aren’t enough to hold them in or up.

    if you wanna talk dangling protruding fleshy sexual organs then female boobs = men’s willies. Topless beaches should be peni beaches too. That’s equality.

  31. Larry
    June 29th, 2006 at 14:10 | #31

    I just want to say that I have had it with plastic barbie plastic skinned hairless girls or ones with sores where they have tried to “depill” WE ARE SUPPOSE to have hair look at alicia keys now THERE’S a woman -alyssa milanogirls not afraid to let their natural beautiful hair grow now THATB is sexy!!!

  32. Terje
    June 30th, 2006 at 23:15 | #32


    Women (and Men) have been removing excess body hair at least since the times of the ancient Romans. So I doubt you are likely to find much following.


  33. Greg J.
    July 9th, 2006 at 11:35 | #33

    Interesting discussion. I have had a beard since I left the (U.S.) Army in the ealry 1980’s. I grew up in appalachia. I knew many men with beards growing up and many men who shaved twice a day. I know we are sometimes called “Hillbillies”( I wish people would not judge us unless they could know us and I would welcome anyone into my home in friendship that wanted to learn about our culture).

    I am a historian and archivist. I am amused to see the discussion. I am also glad to see the exchange of information. I think beards will be in vogue forever, just at different stages and at different times and in different fashions.

    I have seen young (20’s) people sporting differnt forms of beards in Atlanta and still country boys in south Georgia with traditional forms. The aspect that really makes me take notice is that they think they are doing something new. From ancient times to modern the “trend” seems to go on, at least here in the Southern States of America. I see the old Victorian styles as well as many simple country “cuts” that really means just let your beard grow as nature intended. I remember the funeral of an uncle that had a beard that was almost down to his waist.

    I have a beard, yes, indeed! The style is somewhat Victorian. This serves me well in my profession. I believe it was called “Mutton Chops” in its day. I talk to school children, once a year during a yearly program, dressed in 19th century style clothing, and have a variety of everyday items to talk to them about such as candlestick holders, brooms, toys, marbles, weaving looms and schoolbooks, furniture and well, many things. They always comment, no matter what everyday artifact I show them, and they talk about my “funny facial hair”. And they ask me questions about my beard and why I have it.

    I always enjoy explaning History to younger generations. Beards have always been present in some form but the fact is that it has always been present.

    As a historian I would enjoy to see both historic and present trends. I welcome comments and discussion.

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