A Brief History of Mankind's Bearded Roots
The long and luxurious history of the beard spans millennia and species. Throughout our human cultural history there has been a rich beard history, beards have faded in and out of relevance. Beards are synonymous with man. Today we’ve reached a state where beards are a common state of fashion, identity and manliness. All bearded men can trace their roots back through their ancestral line. Let’s look at a brief history of beards as we look back on our roots.
Biological & Historical Roots of the BeardBiologists have characterized beards as secondary sexual characteristics and a benefit of sexual selection as humans evolved. That is to say, as we already knew that beards make men more attractive than those without, and also they’ve played a role in the evolving man. Renowned scientist best known for his contributions to the theory of evolution, Charles Darwin, briefly mentioned beards in his work The Descent of Man. He thought that animals evolved secondary sexual characteristics that acted as ornaments to attract potential mates and bring the fear into the hearts of their enemies. One such ornament of man was the beard. Evolutionary psychology proves that beards continued on from our primate past into the future to signal sexual maturity and physical dominance through larger perceived jaws. Our natural prehistory gave us the beard from one species to another, but what did our invented culture do to the beard?
Cultural History of the BeardThere has always been a place for the beard in one form or the other. Our ancient civilizations including the Ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians revered their beards. In Egypt for example, the most elite would grow their beards out then dye and color them, sometimes even weaving gold thread into their beards. Think we could bring this old trend back? Our Mesopotamian brethren even knew to oil their beards up, as did the Greeks. Ancient Greeks were the cradle of modern western civilization. Until Alexander The Great came around, beards were basically everywhere. The most badass Spartans would actually punish people by shaving off a part of their beard. Roman culture didn’t shave for a while either until barbers came in and passed on the tradition of shaving. Many slaves during this time kept their beards, so one could see the cultural and socio-economic implications of having a beard during this Roman time. It wasn’t until some time later that Roman Emperor Plutarch grew his beard to hide his scars and other elite Romans followed him. Many philosophers were known to have beards during their time. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are some well known beardsmen. There have been many starts and stops of bearded cultural trends. A stoic philosopher, Epictetus, once remarked that he’d rather die than shave.
Bearded Organizations Throughout Time
In Europe and especially during the Middle Ages, beards followed the trend of the knight. Men of high status wore beards and they also signified honor amongst knights. Our time of Renaissance, where magnificent works of art and social reform were brought about unfortunately saw the rise of the razor again. Though, Leonardo da Vinci did have an epic beard in his older years. Getting closer to our American history, we found the most bearded men holding political office and trend during the 1800's. This was happening all over the world as major world leaders opted out of the shave, and instead let their manes flow. Karl Marx was an example of a new economic philosopher with his epic beard. You may have seen him plastered on an unopened college student’s copy of Das Kapital somewhere. Our American constituents will be proud to know that the founding of the United States and subsequent schism to preserve equality for all, was a major victory in bearded history. Our revolutionary founding fathers had a tricky relationship with beards as they still harbored some old cultural baggage from their English counterparts. It wasn't until the shining political representation of Abraham Lincoln that beards were brought to the forefront of policy. Following the Lincoln years came generations of bearded presidents. It was a time of reconstruction, and it didn't stop until the early 1900s. A beautiful resurgence came during the mid 20th century in the form of the Beat Generation, our Hippie progenitors. What originally started in poetry slams and underground “tea” shops made its way into the cultural trends of beardedness. The clean shaven robotic businessman quickly faded as the late 1960s and 1970s entered into the mainstream.