Beards are having a moment in this day and age as the ultimate fashion accessory, but it seems they weren’t always this popular.
While beards have been growing on men since the dawn of time, their status as a fashion symbol wasn’t always there, as they’ve also been practical tools that men relied on throughout the years.
What is the history of the beard and what trends has it been through?
Today, the beard is used solely as a fashion and style choice, but in previous times they’ve been used for everything from a status symbol to a tool for warmth and protection.
A look back at all of the different beards and their purposes will paint a very different picture from the modern beard we know today.
We’re going to look back at the very first beards and go through the centuries and decades to understand the role that the beard has played, and how the mustache has been worn as well.
Although the beard today is seen as a fashion accessory, it’s been so much more than that through history, so you can wear yours with pride knowing it’s far more fascinating than you ever realized.
If you’d like to see a graphical breakdown of beards through history, we got you covered:
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The Timeline of Beards Through History
You might not realize it, but that humble little beard you have growing on your face has quite a unique history.
Beards through the ages have been used for everything from intimidation to a status of wealth and nobility, so even though they’re only used for fashion today, that doesn’t mean they haven’t played a role in history.
Have a look at the various beards through the ages to see what else our treasured facial hair used to represent.
The Prehistoric Beard
It’s no secret that prehistoric humans were hairy, and the beard is one of the remaining portions of hair that has been left over.
During this time, beards were used for warmth during the colder months and a way to protect against the sun, wind, and sand when times were hotter.
The beard was also used to make a prehistoric man look more intimidating. The way that it shaped their face and made their jaw look stronger could help them appear more threatening.
It’s this reason many men choose to wear a beard today, because of how it accentuates and strengthens their jawline, so we can thank our prehistoric ancestors for the beauty tip.
If you’ve ever looked at ancient Egyptian history books, you’ve probably noted the pictures of men wearing false beards fastened to their heads with ribbons.
This was common practice during this time and something that only royalty wore, with both kings and queens donning the fake facial hair, usually made of metal.
For other Egyptians that weren’t considered royalty, they sometimes dyed their beards with a natural red or brown dye and made quite an effort to style them.
During the Mesopotamian era, it was considered commonplace to put a lot of effort into styling your beard.
Beards were also sometimes styled into curls and ringlets as well as various pieces of jewelry being added to them.
Beards of Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece saw men wearing beards as a sign of the highest honor, and it was normal for them to put in extra effort styling them.
The most popular look was a hanging curl which was done with hot tongs, and if they did something dishonorable, their beard would be cut as a punishment.
Alexander the Great decreed in 345 BCE that beards were no longer allowed for these solders as their enemies would grab them in battle and use it to harm them.
Ancient Romans were known for having short and styled, and using a razor was part of the hygienic reform that was introduced to the city in 616BCE.
Although they encouraged citizens to use a razor, most men didn’t start doing so until around 454 BCE. It was during this time that Greek Sicilian barbers set up their shops in central Rome so that everyday people could get their beards trimmed and shaved.
Before that, only wealthy people were able to be groomed because their slaves did the job for them.
Anglo-Saxons commonly wore beards but once Christianity was born in the 7th century, they installed a law that meant their clergy had to be clean shaved.
It was common for princes and other royalty to wear just a mustache but around 1066 CE, they were ordered by William the First to shave them off so that they fit with fashion trends of the time.
Beards came back into fashion around 1535 and Anglo-Saxon beards ranged in styles, shapes, and colors, much like the beards of today.
The trend of styled beards continued and in the 1600s, it was common for aristocrats to wear a pointed beard. This was done by applying wax and using small brushes and comes as we do today.
Mustaches were also introduced as a fashion statement for men of all backgrounds, and many gadgets and tools were being made to help specifically with facial hair grooming and styling.
The Popularity of Beards
Beards haven’t always been used as symbols of wealth, power or protection, and in the 17th century, they started to become more of a fashion accessory than anything else.
Men saw images of presidents, politicians, and other famous faces with a whole range of beard styles and urged their barbers to recreate them.
Some popular early beard trends belonged to Abraham Lincoln with his famous chin curtain, showing long hair that goes over the chin and along the jawline.
Henry David Thoreau was one of the first to wear the chinstrap beard that also featured sideburns, a style that would continue to grow in popularity.
The Rise of the Mustache
The mustache began to be worn as a fashion accessory in around 1860 with many different styles on show in the western world.
This facial hair trend saw its peak in popularity during the 1880s and 1890s, as it was the common look for men serving in the military, but then towards the end of the century, it fell out of fashion once again.
The mustache has come and gone as a fashion choice, always with a different shape and style, like the handlebar mustache of the 1980s or the thinner look that men wore in the 1990s.
Today, men wear a mustache as part of their beard or as a standalone feature, and its popularity has once again peaked.
A Beard for All Ages
Looking back on the beard in all its glory makes us appreciate our facial hair even more, and shows that it’s about so much more than looking good.
There might not be any reason to wear a beard for social status or warmth and protection these days, but that doesn’t mean our beards are any less special to us.
We may again find a practical use for the beard, other than just being a great way to collect food crumbs and attract mates, but for now, we’re happy to wear it as the cool fashion accessory that it is.
Just like other fashion statements, the beard’s popularity has been cyclical and it comes and goes throughout the various decades, always with something new and exciting to unveil to the world, and we can’t wait to see what’s next.
Beards come in all shapes and sizes, and looking back at history shows that they also had different purposes.
There’s a lot to learn about the humble beard and we’ve answered a few frequently asked questions about their place in history today to give you a background on why they’re so popular.
What’s the Most Popular Beard Style Today?
A bigger and fuller beard has been the most popular trend in the last couple of years, with men preferring looks like the Balbo and Bandholz.
However, choosing a beard is a matter of personal taste and depends on how much time and effort you can commit to growing and styling it each day.
Does a Beard Make You More Attractive?
Although someone’s attraction to beards is purely personal, there have been some studies done on whether women find bearded men more attractive.
One study showed that men with shorter stubble were more attractive as short term partners and men with longer beards more attractive as long term partners when over 8,000 women were asked to rate photos of men with facial hair.