The ebb and flow of beard popularity tells a rich and fascinating history of men's facial hair. Some beards were functional and others were simply stylish. Varying beard styles throughout history all served a purpose for each man bold enough to grow one.
Beards and Ancient Civilizations
For the most primitive man, thick and unruly facial hair was grown for warmth. It is also thought that beards were grown as an intimidation factor and to appear more fierce to a man's enemy. The bigger your beard, the better you were at hunting, fighting and tracking. Similar to how a lion's mane indicates his health and prowess. Additionally, big, burly beards often softened blows to the face during combat.
Ancient Egyptians took great care of their decorative beards. Historians describe Egyptians dyeing and plaiting their long beards, with gold threading and ornate decorations. False wooden beards were even constructed for those Pharaohs who could not grow their own impressive facial hair.
Men of ancient Greece took great care of their beards and often wore them styled in elaborate ringlets. Beards came to be a symbol of knowledge and great wisdom, associated with the Philosopher classes.
But beards were not always welcome in all societies-- In the late 1600s, Russia's Peter The Great imposed mandatory beard taxes to encourage men to shave, feeling that men's beards were keeping his country from becoming "fully modern." Peter did, however, sport quite the impressive handlebar mustache himself.
Timeline of American Beard Styles
Beards have fallen in and out of favor throughout American history. During times of beard popularity, styles varied from short and clean to long and burly and pretty much everywhere in between.
Shaving during the Civil War was not easily accomplished, and took a fair amount of time, and so trimming with scissors and shaping your facial hair was much easier, not to mention hygienically safer. Convenience was a huge part of men's facial hair styles during this time.
Named after Civil War General, Ambrose Burnside's epic facial hair, the sideburn quickly gained popularity. It made a comeback again in the 1970s as part of the disco era.
Around the same time, Abraham Lincoln inspired the growing "chin curtain" beard trend, which persisted for several years.
Early to Mid 1900s
The last President to date to wear a mustache, William Taft, inspired millions of men to carefully and meticulously style their handlebar mustache. Mustaches of all shapes and sizes persisted in popularity into the mid 1900s.
After the World Wars, shaving became the rage with the invention of the safety razor. Men in the military were issued the Gillette safety razors, and the clean shaven 'All American' man was projected as the preferred visage.
In the post-war 1950s, jazz and soul movements, as well as the beatnik movement, led the way for the goatee. This is one of the facial hair trends that still remains popular today: Idris Elba, George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr., and Common are among modern-day celebrities who wear the goatee best.
The early 1970s saw a temporary resurgence in the full-bodied beard, popularized by the actor Dan Haggerty in his role of Grizzy Adams, the mountain man.
The horseshoe mustache, also known as the "porn-stache," was a crowd pleaser in the late 1970s. However, that trend didn't last very long. The chevron shaped mustache soon replaced the horseshoe in the 1980s. The chevron was a style popularized by Tom Selleck.
Goatees were still big during this time period and were sometimes paired with the chevron mustache for a maximum impact.
Beards Are Big in the 2000s
Beards have always been a part of American pop culture and an expression of style, but beard lovers are rejoicing as beards have grown with increasing popularity. In the early 2000s a goatee and scruffy beard hybrid was spotted on Keanu Reeves and Matt LeBlanc. We also can never forget about the "man bun" and beard combination that took hold in 2015 and caught fire for a few years.
Powerlifters, professional athletes, creative intellectuals, and adventurous motorbike riders have all embraced the modern day beard as part of their identities.
Overall, beards are trending up across all types of men all over the nation and we are loving it. From Jim Carrey's "yeard" to Brad Pitt's full beard, and even Drake's lined-up beard, beards are here to stay through the rest of the 2000s and beyond.