"Bearded" redirects here. For the British music magazine, see Bearded (magazine).
For other uses, see Beard (disambiguation).

Hindu Sadhu with a goatee and moustache.
Latin barba
TA A16.0.00.018
FMA 54240

Anatomical terminology

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 Caucasians and the Ainu have more facial hair. Women with hirsutism, a hormonal condition of excessive hairiness, may develop a beard.

Throughout the course of history, 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 absolutely 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.


The beard develops during puberty. Beard growth is linked to stimulation of hair follicles in the area by dihydrotestosterone, which continues to affect beard growth after puberty. Various hormones stimulate hair follicles from different areas. Dihydrotestosterone, for example, may also promote short-term pogonotrophy (i.e., the grooming of facial hair). For example, a scientist who chose to remain anonymous had to spend periods of 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, to reach unusually high rates 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.[1] However, at that time professional pogonologists such as R.M. Hardisty reacted vigorously and almost dismissively.[2]

Beard growth rate is also genetic.[3]


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.[4] 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.[5][6][7]

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.[8] 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).[9] A beard can be explained as an indicator of a male's overall condition.[10] The rate of facial hairiness appears to influence male attractiveness.[11][12] 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.[13] Excess testosterone evidenced by the beard may indicate mild immunosuppression, which may support spermatogenesis.[14][15]


Ancient and classical world


Phoenicians or the ancestors of the Lebanese gave great attention to the beard, as can be seen in their sculptures.

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. Where the beard has mostly a strong resemblance to that affected by the Assyrians, and familiar to us 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, we find one row only, the beard falling in tresses, which are curled at the extremity. There is no indication of the Phoenicians having cultivated mustachios.[16]


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).

Bearded Akkadian mask featuring characteristic curls, presumed to represent either Sargon the Elder or his grandson Naram-Sin


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 queens and kings. 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 (cf. 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 could probably not grow long beards as it would have interfered with their work.

Most of the clay soldiers in the Terracotta Army have mustasches or goatees but shaved cheeks, indicating that this was likely the fashion of the Qin dynasty.


Close-up of one of the Lamassu beard relief in Gate of All Nations in Perspolis (south of Iran).
Fath-Ali Shah, the second Qajar Shah of Persia had a long beard.

The Iranians were fond of long beards, and almost all the Iranian kings had a beard. In Travels by Adam Olearius, a King of Iran commands his steward's head to be cut off, and on its being brought to him, 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.


The ancient Greeks regarded the beard as a badge or sign of virility; in the Homeric epics it had almost sanctified significance, so that a common form of entreaty was to touch the beard of the person addressed.[17] It was only shaven as a sign of mourning, though in this case it was instead often left untrimmed. A smooth face was regarded as a sign of effeminacy.[18] The Spartans punished cowards by shaving off a portion of their beards. From the earliest times, however, the shaving of the upper lip was not uncommon. Greek beards were also frequently curled with tongs.

A coin depicting a cleanly shaven Alexander the Great.

Kingdom of Macedonia

In the time of Alexander the Great the custom of smooth shaving was introduced.[19] 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,[20] 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,[21] and there are many allusions to this custom of the later philosophers in such proverbs as: "The beard does not constitute a philosopher."[22]


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.[23]

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.[24] 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.[25] 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.[26] The Romans, unlike the Greeks, let their beards grow in time of mourning; so did Augustus for the death of Julius Caesar.[27] 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.[28]

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

Late Hellenistic sculptures of Celts[29] 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.[30][31][32]

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

In the Middle-Age Europe, a beard displayed a knight's virility and honour. 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.

In pre-Islamic Arabia men would apparently keep mustaches but shave the hair on their chins. The prophet 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

The Yongle Emperor of Ming (1402-1424)
Johann Strauss II with a large beard, moustache, and sideburns.
Mid 19th Century Photograph of a California man with an 8-foot beard
Emperor Meiji of Japan wore a full beard and moustache during most of his reign.
Johannes Brahms with large beard and moustache.
French political Jean Jaurès with a full beard and moustache.

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 20's.

In the 15th century, most European men were clean-shaven. 16th-century beards were allowed to grow to an amazing length (see the portraits of John Knox, Bishop Gardiner, Cardinal Pole and Thomas Cranmer). Some beards of this time were the Spanish spade beard, the English square cut beard, the forked beard, and the stiletto beard. In 1587 Francis Drake claimed, in a figure of speech, to have singed the King of Spain's beard.

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.[33]

19th century

Friedrich Engels exhibiting a full moustache and beard that was a common style among Europeans of the nineteenth century.
Maryland Governor Thomas Swann with a long goatee. Such beards were common around the time of the American Civil War.

During the early 19th century most men, particularly amongst 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.[34] Consequently, beards were adopted by many leaders, such as Alexander III of Russia, Napoleon III of France and Frederick III of Germany, as well as many leading statesmen and cultural figures, such as Benjamin Disraeli, Charles Dickens, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Karl Marx, and Giuseppe Verdi. This trend can be recognised in the United States of America, where the shift can be seen amongst the post-Civil War presidents. Before Abraham Lincoln, no President had a beard;[35] after Lincoln until Woodrow Wilson, every President except Andrew Johnson and William McKinley had either a beard or a moustache.

The beard became linked in this period with notions of masculinity and male courage.[34] 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

Romanian fisherman with a beard, 1941.

By the early 20th 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).

In China, the revolution of 1911 and subsequent May Fourth Movement of 1919 led the Chinese to idealize 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. Mustaches 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. The Gillette Safety Razor Company was one of these marketers' early clients. These events conspired to popularize 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 old, Central European, members of a religious sect that required it, sailors, or in academia.

The beard was reintroduced to mainstream society by the counterculture, firstly with the "beatniks" in the 1950s, and then with the hippie movement of the mid-1960s. Following the Vietnam War, beards exploded in popularity. In the mid-late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, beards were worn by hippies and businessmen alike. Popular music artists like The Beatles, Barry White, The Beach Boys, Jim Morrison (The Doors) and the male members of Peter, Paul, and Mary, among many others, wore full beards. The trend of seemingly ubiquitous beards in American culture subsided in the mid-1980s.

By the end of the 20th century, the closely clipped Verdi beard, often with a matching integrated moustache, had become relatively common. From the 1990s onward, the fashion in the United States has generally trended toward either a goatee, Van Dyke, or a closely cropped full beard undercut on the throat. By 2010, the fashionable length approached a "two-day shadow".[36] The 2010s decade also saw the full beard become fashionable again amongst young men.[37] This most recent trend for beards is strongly associated with the 'lumbersexual' stereotype.

Moche ceramic vessels representing bearded men. Larco Museum Collection. Lima, Peru.

Facial hair and Political Leaders

Cuban revolutionaries Che Guevara (left) and Fidel Castro (right) with a full beard.

Facial hair has progressively grown out of fashion in Western societies, as evidenced by the rare number of Western leaders to grow facial hair since the 1930s. The last US President to wear a mustache was William Howard Taft, who served from 1909 to 1913). Leaders in other parts of the world continue to wear facial hair.

Amongst the countries listed below, the most recent head of government or state to have worn facial hair whilst in office include:

There have been no heads of state of the Republic of Korea and Indonesia, or heads of government of Thailand and Singapore, who have worn facial hair.

Beards in religion

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. In Norse mythology, Thor the god of thunder is portrayed wearing a red beard.


Basilios Bessarion's beard contributed to his defeat in the papal conclave of 1455.[39]

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.[40]

Amish and Hutterite men shave until they marry, then grow a beard and are never thereafter without one, although it is a particular form of a beard (see Visual markers of marital status). Many Syrian Christians from Kerala in India wore long beards.

In the 1160s Burchardus, abbot of the Cistercian monastery of Bellevaux in the Franche-Comté, wrote a treatise on beards.[41] 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.[42] 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 too-lengthy beard. In relatively modern times, the first pope to wear a beard was Pope Julius II, who in 1511–12 did so for a while 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.[43]

Different types of beards : 1) Incipient 2) moustache 3) goatee or Mandarin 4) Spanish style 5) long sideburns 6) sideburn joined by his mustache 7) Style Van Dyke 8) full beard.

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).[44] Some Messianic Jews also wear beards to show their observance of the Old Testament.

Diarmaid MacCulloch writes:[45] "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. But

"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."

Thomas Bramwell Welch was a Methodist minister.

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.

LDS Church

Many early LDS Church leaders (such as Brigham Young, pictured) wore beards.

Since the mid-twentieth century, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) has encouraged men to be clean-shaven,[46] particularly those that serve in ecclesiastical leadership positions.[47] 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.[46]

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.[48] However, formal prohibitions against facial hair are currently enforced for young men providing two-year missionary service.[49] Students and staff of the church-sponsored higher education institutions, such as Brigham Young University (BYU), are required to adhere to the Church Educational System Honor Code,[50] 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.[51] A beard exception is granted for "serious skin conditions",[52] and for approved theatrical performances, but until 2015 no exception was given for any other reason, including religious convictions.[53] 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.[54][55][56][57]

BYU students led a campaign to loosen the beard restrictions in 2014,[58][59][60][61] 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.[62]


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 Yoga practitioners 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 men, typically of the ISKCON sect, are often clean-shaven as a sign of cleanliness.


An example of an Ottoman-style beard (Sultan Selim III).

Allowing the beard (Lihyah in Arabic) to grow and trimming the moustache is ruled as mandatory according to the Sunnah in Islam by consensus[63] and is considered part of the fitra i.e. the way man was created.

Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 72, Hadith 781 Narrated by Abdullah ibn Umar says "Allah's Apostle said, 'Cut the moustaches short and leave the beard (as it is).'"[64]

A young bearded Muslim male conforming to the Sunnah

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".[65] Ibn Hazm said in al-Furoo': "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.[66] [67]

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."[68]

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.


Main article: Shaving in Judaism
Orthodox Jew in Jerusalem with an unshaved beard and payot (sidelocks)

The Bible states in Leviticus 19:27 that "You shall not round off the corners of your heads nor mar the corners of your beard." Talmudic tradition explains this 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 cleanshaven, 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,[69] 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).


A Sikh man with full beard

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.

Rastafari Movement

Male Rastafarians wear beards in conformity with injunctions given in the Bible, such as Leviticus 21:5, which reads "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.

The "philosopher's beard"

In Greco-Roman antiquity the beard was "seen as the defining characteristic of the philosopher; philosophers had to have beards, and anyone with a beard was assumed to be a philosopher."[70] While one may be tempted to think that Socrates and Plato sported "philosopher's beards", such is not the case. Shaving was not widespread in Athens during fifth and fourth-century BC and so they would not be distinguished from the general populace for having a beard. The popularity of shaving did not rise in the region until the example of Alexander the Great near the end of the fourth century BC. The popularity of shaving did not spread to Rome until the end of the third century BC following its acceptance by Scipio Africanus. In Rome shaving's popularity grew to the point that for a respectable Roman citizen it was seen almost as compulsory.

The idea of the philosopher's beard gained traction when in 155 BC three philosophers arrived in Rome as Greek diplomats: Carneades, head of the Platonic Academy; Critolaus of Aristotle's Lyceum; and the head of the Stoics, Diogenes of Babylon. "In contrast to their beautifully clean-shaven Italian audience, these three intellectuals all sported magnificent beards."[71] Thus the connection of beards and philosophy caught hold of the Roman public imagination.

Epictetus stated he would embrace death before shaving.

The importance of the beard to Roman philosophers is best seen by the extreme value that the Stoic philosopher Epictetus placed on it. As historian John Sellars puts it, Epictetus "affirmed the philosopher's beard as something almost sacred ... to express the idea that philosophy is no mere intellectual hobby but rather a way of life that, by definition, transforms every aspect of one's behavior, including one's shaving habits. If someone continues to shave in order to look the part of a respectable Roman citizen, it is clear that they have not yet embraced philosophy conceived as a way of life and have not yet escaped the social customs of the majority ... the true philosopher will only act according to reason or according to nature, rejecting the arbitrary conventions that guide the behavior of everyone else."[71]

Epictetus saw his beard as an integral part of his identity and held that he would rather be executed than submit to any force demanding he remove it. In his Discourses 1.2.29, he puts forward such a hypothetical confrontation: "'Come now, Epictetus, shave your beard'. If I am a philosopher, I answer, I will not shave it off. 'Then I will have you beheaded'. If it will do you any good, behead me."[71] The act of shaving "would be to compromise his philosophical ideal of living in accordance with nature and it would be to submit to the unjustified authority of another".[71]

This was not merely an academic position in the age of Epictetus, for the Emperor Domitian had the hair and beard forcibly shaven off of the philosopher Apollonius of Tyana "as punishment for anti-State activities".[71] This disgraced Apollonius while avoiding making him a martyr like Socrates. Well before his declaration of "death before shaving", Epictetus had been forced to flee Rome when Domitian banished all philosophers from Italy under threat of execution.

Roman philosophers sported different styles of beards to distinguish which school they belonged to. Cynics wore long dirty beards to indicate their "strict indifference to all external goods and social customs";[71] Stoics occasionally trimmed and washed their beards in accord with their view "that it is acceptable to prefer certain external goods so long as they are never valued above virtue";[71] Peripatetics took great care of their beards believing in accord with Aristotle that "external goods and social status were necessary for the good life together with virtue".[71] To a Roman philosopher in this era, having a beard and the condition of that beard indicated their commitment to live in accord with their philosophy.

Modern prohibition of beards

Civilian prohibitions

Beards may be prohibited in jobs which require the wearing of breathing masks,[72] including airline pilots,[73] firefighters, and the oil and gas industry.

The Japanese municipality of Isesaki, Gunma decided to ban beards for male employees on May 19, 2010.[74]

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.[75][76][77]


The International Boxing Association prohibits the wearing of beards by amateur boxers, although the Amateur Boxing Association of England allows exceptions for Sikh men, on condition that the beard be covered with a fine net.[78] As a safety precaution, high school wrestlers must be clean-shaven before each match, though neatly trimmed moustaches are often allowed.

The Cincinnati Reds had a longstanding enforced policy where all players had to be completely clean shaven (no beards, long sideburns or moustaches). However, this policy was abolished following the sale of the team by Marge Schott in 1999.

Brian Wilson's beard in 2011

Under owner George Steinbrenner, the New York Yankees baseball team had a strict dress code that prohibited long hair and facial hair below the lip; the regulation was continued under Hank and Hal Steinbrenner when control of the Yankees was transferred to them after the 2008 season. Willie Randolph and Joe Girardi, both former Yankee assistant coaches, adopted a similar clean-shaven policy for their ballclubs: the New York Mets and New York Yankees, respectively. Fredi González, who replaced Girardi as the manager of the Florida Marlins, dropped that policy when he took over after the 2006 season, only to be restored by Don Mattingly ten seasons later.

The Playoff beard is a tradition common with teams in the National Hockey League and now in other leagues where players allow their beards to grow from the beginning of the playoff season until the playoffs are over for their team.

In 2008, some members of the Tyrone GAA Gaelic football team vowed not to shave until the end of the season. They went on to win the All-Ireland football championship, some of them sporting impressive beards by that stage.

Canadian rugby union flanker Adam Kleeberger attracted much media attention before, during, and after the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. Kleeberger was known, alongside teammates Jebb Sinclair and Hubert Buydens as one of "the beardoes". Fans in the stands could often be seen wearing fake beards and "fear the beard" became a popular expression during the team's run in the competition. Kleeberger, who became one of Canada's star players in the tournament, later used the publicity surrounding his beard to raise awareness for two causes; Christchurch earthquake relief efforts and prostate cancer. As part of this fundraising, his beard was shaved off by television personality Rick Mercer and aired on national television. The "Fear the Beard" expression was coined by the NBA's Oklahoma City Thunder fans, and is now used by Houston Rockets fans, to support James Harden.

James Harden's beard

Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Brian Wilson, who claims not to have shaved since the 2010 All-Star Game, has grown a big beard that has become popular in MLB and with its fans. MLB Fan Cave presented a "Journey Inside Brian Wilson's Beard", which was an interactive screenshot of Wilson's beard, where one can click on different sections to see various fictional activities performed by small "residents" of the beard. The hosts on sports shows sometimes wear replica beards, and the Giants gave them away to fans as a promo.

The 2013 Boston Red Sox featured at least 12 players[79] with varying degrees of facial hair, ranging from the closely trimmed beard of slugger David Ortiz to the long shaggy looks of Jonny Gomes and Mike Napoli. The Red Sox used their beards as a marketing tool, offering a Dollar Beard Night,[80] where all fans with beards (real or fake) could buy a ticket for $1.00; and also as means of fostering team camaraderie.[81]

Beards have also become a source of competition between athletes. Examples of athlete "beard-offs" include NBA players DeShawn Stevenson and Drew Gooden in 2008,[82] and WWE wrestler Daniel Bryan and Oakland Athletics outfielder Josh Reddick in 2013.[83]

Armed forces

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.


Silas Hocking, bearded
Henry David Thoreau with neckbeard

Beard hair is most commonly removed by shaving or by trimming with the use of a beard trimmer. If only the area above the upper lip is left unshaven, the resulting facial hairstyle is known as a moustache; if hair is left only on the chin, the style is a goatee.

In art

Beards are sometimes the subject of art[88][89][90] 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 possed was 17 feet long and belonged to Hans Langseth[91] (the longest beard of a living person is 8 feet[92]).

In animals

The term "beard" is also used for a collection of stiff, hair-like feathers on the centre of the breast of turkeys. Normally, the turkey's beard remains flat and may be hidden under other feathers, but when the bird is displaying, the beard become erect and protrudes several centimetres from the breast.

Many goats possess a beard. The male sometimes urinates on his own beard as a marking behaviour during rutting.

Several animals are termed "bearded" as part of their common name. Sometimes a beard of hair on the chin or face is prominent but for some others, "beard" may refer to a pattern or colouring of the pelage reminiscent of a beard.

See also


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  2. Hardisty, R. M. (1970). "Shaving to impress". Nature. 226 (5252): 1277. doi:10.1038/2261277a0.
  3. Randall VA (2008). "Androgens and hair growth". Dermatol Ther. 21 (5): 314–28. doi:10.1111/j.1529-8019.2008.00214.x. PMID 18844710.
  4. Darwin, Charles (2004). The Descent Of Man And Selection In Relation To Sex. Kessinger Publishing. p. 554.
  5. Dixson, A.; Dixson, B; Anderson, M (2005). "Sexual selection and the evolution of visually conspicuous sexually dimorphic traits in male monkeys, apes, and human beings". Annu Rev Sex Res. 16: 1–19. PMID 16913285.
  6. Miller, Geoffry F. (1998). "How Mate Choice Shaped Human Nature: A Review of Sexual Selection and Human Evolution". In Crawford, Charles B. Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology: Ideas, Issues, and Applications. Psychology Press. pp. 106, 111, 113.
  7. Skamel, Uta (2003). "Beauty and Sex Appeal: Sexual Selection of Aesthetic Preferences". In Voland, Eckhard. Evolutionary Aesthetics. New York: Springer. pp. 173–183. ISBN 3-540-43670-7.
  8. Puts, D. A. (2010). "Beauty and the beast: Mechanisms of sexual selection in humans". Evolution and Human Behavior. 31 (3): 157–175. doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2010.02.005.
  9. Dixson, A. F. (2009). Sexual selection and the origins of human mating systems. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 178. ISBN 978-0-19-955943-5.
  10. Thornhill, Randy; Gangestad, Steven W. (1993). "Human facial beauty: Averageness, symmetry, and parasite resistance". Human Nature. 4 (3): 237–269. doi:10.1007/BF02692201.
  11. Barber, N. (1995). "The Evolutionary psychology of physical attractiveness: Sexual selection and human morphology". Ethol Sociobiol. 16 (5): 395–525. doi:10.1016/0162-3095(95)00068-2.
  12. Etcoff, N. (1999). Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-47854-2.
  13. Zehavi, A.; Zahavi, A. (1997). The Handicap Principle. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 213. ISBN 0-19-510035-2.
  14. Folstad, I.; Skarstein, F. (1997). "Is male germ line control creating avenues for female choice?". Behavioral Ecology. 8 (1): 109–112. doi:10.1093/beheco/8.1.109.
  15. Folstad and Skarsein cited by Skamel, Uta (2003). "Beauty and Sex Appeal: Sexual Selection of Aesthetic Preferences". In Voland, Eckhard. Evolutionary Aesthetics. Springer. pp. 173–183.
  16. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a work now in the public domain: Rawlinson, George (1889). History of Phoenicia. Longmans, Green, and Co.
  17. See, for example, Homer Iliad 1:500-1
  18. Athen. xiii. 565 a (cited by Peck)
  19. Chrysippus ap. Athen. xiii. 565 a (cited by Peck)
  20. Diog. Laert.v. 1 (cited by Peck)
  21. cf. Pers.iv. 1, magister barbatus of Socrates (cited by Peck)
  22. Ancient Greek: πωγωνοτροφία φιλόσοφον οὐ ποιεῖ. De Is. et Osir. 3 (cited by Peck)
  23. Petron. 75, 10 (cited by Peck)
  24. Liv.xxvii. 34 (cited by Peck)
  25. Juv.iii. 186 (cited by Peck)
  26. Suet. Ner.12 (cited by Peck)
  27. Dio Cass. xlviii. 34 (cited by Peck)
  28. Varro asked rhetorically how often the tradesmen of the country shaved between market days, implying (in chronologist E. J. Bickerman's opinion) that this did not happen at all: "quoties priscus homo ac rusticus Romanus inter nundinum barbam radebat?",Varr. ap. Non. 214, 30; 32: see also E J Bickerman, Chronology of the Ancient World, London (Thames & Hudson) 1968, at p.59.
  29. Examples (both in Roman copies): Dying Gaul, Ludovisi Gaul
  30. Connolly, Sean J (2007). "Prologue". Contested island: Ireland 1460–1630. Oxford University Press. p. 7.
  31. The Topography of Ireland by Giraldus Cambrensis (English translation)
  32. Macleod, John, Highlanders: A History of the Gaels (Hodder and Stoughton, 1997) p43
  33. Beard Tax: Information from. Retrieved on 2011-01-03.
  34. 1 2 Jacob Middleton, 'Bearded Patriarchs', History Today, Volume: 56 Issue: 2 (February 2006), 26–27.
  35. Sherrow, Victoria (2006). Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 59.
  36. Elejalde-Ruiz, Alexia (2010-03-28). "Latest in facial hair: The two-day shadow". Chicago Tribune.
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  38. Sarah Begley (November 30, 2015). "Paul Ryan Claims to Be First Bearded Speaker in a Century".
  39. Soykut, Mustapha (2005). "Chapter Nine: The Ottoman Empire and Europe in political history through Venetian and Papal sources". In Birchwood, Matthew; Dimmock, Matthew. Cultural Encounters Between East and West, 1453–1699. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Press. p. 170. ISBN 9781904303411. Retrieved 2014-10-28. [...] Bessarion later embraced the Catholic faith and in 1455 lost the election to become Pope with eight votes against fifteen from the cardinals. One of the arguments that was used against the election of Bessarion as Pope was that he still had a beard, even though he had converted to Catholicism, and insisted on wearing his Greek habit, which raised doubts on the sincerity of his conversion.
  40. Note for example the Old Believers within the Russian Orthodox tradition: Paert, Irina (2010). "Old Believers". In McGuckin, John Anthony. The Encyclopedia of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, 2 Volume Set. John Wiley & Sons. p. 420. ISBN 9781444392548. Retrieved 2014-10-28. Ritual prohibitions typical for all sections of the Old Believers include shaving beards (for men) and smoking tobacco.
  41. Corpus Christianorum, Continuatio Mediaevalis LXII, Apologiae duae: Gozechini epistola ad Walcherum; Burchardi, ut videtur, Abbatis Bellevallis Apologia de Barbis. Edited by R.B.C. Huygens, with an introduction on beards in the Middle Ages by Giles Constable. Turnholti 1985
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  64. Classed as saheeh by al-Tirmidhi
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  82. November, Mike Oz (2013-11-21). "Josh Reddick loses 'beard-off,' has his face shaved by WWE's Daniel Bryan | Big League Stew – Yahoo! Sports". Retrieved 2014-02-26.
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  85. "Designer stubble". Retrieved 14 July 2011.
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  88. Deni Kirkova (18 December 2014). "A Christmas tree, snowman and an OCTOPUS! Artist Incredibeard takes hipster 'beard art' trend to new lengths with amazing facial hair sculptures".
  89. Bob ("bphillipp") (December 16, 2014). "This man's incredible beard is an evolving work of art (18 Photos)".
  90. Natasha Geiling (November 19, 2014). "The World's Longest Beard Is One Of The Smithsonian's Strangest Artifacts".
  91. "Longest beard – living male".


Further reading

External links

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