ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Fashion and Beauty»
  • Clothing

What is it with Beards?

Updated on January 9, 2015
Neil Blake, Bearded Baykeeper
Neil Blake, Bearded Baykeeper | Source

Beards are like Ideas : Men don't have them till they grow up

The beard must be the most contentious feature of a man's face.

It's nothing more than the sign of the adult male, or is it? Like the thick cartilage which surrounds a man's larynx, it appears in puberty and is classified as a secondary sexual characteristic which only means that women have neither an Adam's Apple nor a beard. (Most women, anyway).

But there's something about this perfectly natural growth on the face that causes diverse and drastic responses.

In some communities the beard denotes a high social status, it can be an outward sign of a religious belief, or it can signify rebelliousness, a willful indifference to the status quo. While to some people a beard may convey an impression of wisdom and knowledge, others see this as mere slovenliness, is there any middle ground?

It's a Man Thing

Whatever you think of bearded men you must admit that growing a beard requires a man to show

  • single-minded determination
  • indifference to passing fashion
  • perverse persistence
  • a high degree of boldness
These are, essentially, masculine characteristics. Only a man would grow a beard.

Attractive Hairy Neanderthal
Attractive Hairy Neanderthal | Source

Are Beards because of Evolution?

The Mystery of the Muttonchops

It's a strange thing, evolution. While we can understand obvious reasons for some attributes that we carry around today, the amount of facial hair is a mystery. What is it for?

A beard isn't necessary for survival or reproduction, if it were, we would all of us have beards, men, women and probably children too. Since facial hair rarely occurs in women, is minimal or even absent among men in particular ethnic groups, and unrelated to climate or ecology, it's not a mutation that ensured the ultimate survival of our species.

Since the amount and appearance of facial hair is directly attributable to male hormones, particularly testosterone, did it once function in sexual selection? Perhaps.The colour and texture of a beard are clear signals of a man's age and can be read as a sign of general vigour.

Were Neanderthal women attracted to hairy men?

A bushy beard would have made a man appear larger and cushioned his face against injuries in a hunt. Good reasons in those far-off days for choosing a hairy man as a mate.

This is my personal opinion of course, my genetic heritage is from North Western Europe where men used to hunt large and dangerous animals for dinner. This could well be the reason for my atavistic appreciation of a good furry, fuzzy beard.

A Long Way from the Caveman

Natty little Beard
Natty little Beard | Source
Hatshepsut with her Beard
Hatshepsut with her Beard | Source

Hatshepsut - Woman with a Beard

The Gal with the Goatee

In the case of Hatshepsut of Egypt, the beard was a symbol of power. She wore a false beard made of metal, called a postiche, which she tied over her head and attached to her jaw with a gold chin strap.

Hatshepsut was considered one of the greatest leaders of her time. As the fifth ruler of the 18th dynasty, she opened and increased trade expansion, oversaw rises in grain production and storage, initiated scholarly studies of the Nile, built temples to the gods and kept her country at peace for the whole length of her rule.

Many queens had ruled before her, yet Hatshepsut was the first woman to assume the title of king. She wore male clothing, was addressed as masculine and became a Pharoah in every manner, custom and rite of Egypt. But she didn't have a royal beard!

The answer? A false beard!

The strange story of Joseph Palmer and his beard

Wild and Whiskered!

Poor Joseph Palmer! He was a veteran of the War of 1812 and moved into what he thought was a Utopian Community, Fruitlands, an agrarian commune set up in the 1840s by Amos Bronson Alcott and based on Transcendentalist principles.

The core belief of transcendentalism was of an ideal spiritual state only realised through the individual's intuition, rather than through the doctrines of established religions. (An account of Fruitland's less-than-successful activities can be found in Alcott's daughter, Louisa May Alcott's, Transcendental Wild Oats).

This ideal commune was less than kind to Joseph Palmer. He was openly insulted, pelted with rocks, publicly denounced during sermons and refused communion.

What dreadful crime did Palmer commit to be treated like a pariah?

He was the only citizen who chose to wear a full beard.

In 1830 he was attacked by four men who tried to shave his beard off and, in defending himself, he stabbed two of the gang in the legs with his jackknife. Palmer was arrested and fined for committing an unprovoked assault. He refused to pay the fine on principle, and was jailed as a debtor, spending over a year in prison during which time he fought off two more attempts by jailers who tried to forcibly shave him.

From prison he nourished his beard and wrote letters to various newspapers protesting that he had really been imprisoned not for assault, but for wearing a beard. The case was widely discussed, the national newspapers took up the shameful story and the local constabulary became so embarrassed that they suggested he forget the whole thing and just go home.

But Palmer refused to leave the prison! He demanded a proclamation that it was perfectly acceptable to wear a beard. That assurance never came, and he was eventually tied to a chair and carried out of the jail against his will.

Now there was a man made the decision to be bearded and had the determination to stick with it.

Red Sox Beards

The Boston Red Sox, winners of America's baseball World Series, 2013
The Boston Red Sox, winners of America's baseball World Series, 2013

Beards and more ...

One Thousand Beards: A Cultural History of Facial Hair
One Thousand Beards: A Cultural History of Facial Hair

History of hair (pretty incredible). From how Freud interpreted a beard to bearded ladies and everything in between. For the curious, the beard fans and a beard-owner's manual of sorts.


Why do men shave?

A better question than asking why men have beards

Why do men wear beards? I believe this is plain back to front - a total reversal of argument and a clear example of begging the question.

Let's be logical here, when most men naturally grow facial hair the question should be : - why do men not have beards?

In contemporary western society shaving is the norm and Letting Nature Take its Course is the exception. But for most of human history, right up to the middle of the 20th century, men have grown their beards. From an observer's point of view it's easy to understand why. It's a darned nuisance to scrape your face every day - and I've observed a large number of men scouring that natural growth off their face.

You can drag up reasons for shaving like avoiding head lice, military discipline, keeping cool in a hot climate, or a basic desire to conform to the rest of the red-cheeked crowd but my guess is entirely different.

Companies make billions of dollars by selling shaving products.

Beards - Breathtaking, Befuddling and Bizarre

Click thumbnail to view full-size

World Beard and Moustache Champions

For the most splendid beards (and moustaches) you must see the website of the World Beard and Moustache Championships.

In Kathmandu holiness wears a beard

Holy Bearded Man
Holy Bearded Man | Source
The Moustache Grower's Guide
The Moustache Grower's Guide

Everything you wanted to know about growing your own 'tache


But what about the moustache?

Does that count?

A moustache doesn't count as a half-beard, a moustache exists for itself alone.

However both of these varieties of facial hair, up to and including sideburns, share common characteristics. There are fashions and modes, sometimes a whole generation of young men will suddenly sprout facial hair in a particular, and probably peculiar, style.

The 1970s saw a proliferation of moustaches for example, while a century earlier no respectable man would be seen dead without an over-the-collar beard and full sideburns.

It's been hard for the moustache to shake off that 70s image after near-fatal doses of leading men along the lines of Burt Reynolds, and how can anyone forget the Village People. I can't forget them, though heaven knows I've tried.

But will the moustache make a comeback?

Brad Pitt flaunted a moustache for Quentin Tarantino's World War II film, "Inglourious Basterds," and then there's that little tache that James Franco wears as Sean Penn's long-suffering boyfriend in "Milk."

Even the pro-mustache Movember movement is a double-edged razor. Originating in Australia in 2004, Movember challenges men to grow mustaches for the month of November to raise money for men's health charities; an estimated 4,000,000 men worldwide participated in 2013. It brings the moustache back every year, only to kill it off a few weeks later.

But for the man who wears a moustache with pride, these fashions and fads are meaningless.

Vandykes, bristles, brush, fuzz, goatees, muttonchops and imperials

Debate : Should Men have Beards? - Your turn!

Should men grow beards?

Take the Poll

Why do men really have beards?

See results

What do you think? Forget the fuzz or stroke the strands? All comments are most appreciated, you don't have to be bearded to leave yours.

© 2009 Susanna Duffy

Backchat for Beards

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 3 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      I have to admit I really dislike beards and have never been able to figure out why so many Major League Baseball pitchers, in particular, wear long straggly beards. Actually, my negative opinion about beards is rather funny considering the fact that my maiden name was Beard! :-)

    • profile image

      neil-blake-54 4 years ago

      Assuming 5 minutes dedicated to a daily shave for 60 years a man will commit 76 whole days of their life combatting what comes naturally. Haven't they got anything better to do?

    • Frischy profile image

      Frischy 4 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      I like them as long as they are kept clean and neatly trimmed. I don't like them too long, where they look scraggly or blow around in the wind. Please don't use wax! And for heaven's sake, don't use them for hiding things or stashing the leftovers from your lunch!

    • profile image

      Colin323 4 years ago

      Fun and interesting lens. Beards are making a bit of a comeback over in PomLand. Jeremy Paxman, a BBC reporter, caused a furore when he appeared on TV sporting a beard. 'It's my right to grow it', he said. So it is.

    • profile image

      Ruthi 4 years ago

      I so enjoy an article that is fun and educational and this one you have written about men (and women, oh my) and their bearded faces is both.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 4 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I imagine "Duck Dynasty" has influenced many a man to grow a beard. You sure find some interesting things to write about. Poor Joseph Palmer - all he wanted to do is wear a beard.

    • greenspirit profile image

      poppy mercer 4 years ago from London

      GREAT beard considerations here. They unsettle me, but there is always an exception; I can't think of one at the moment.

    • profile image

      Science-Fiction-Fan 5 years ago

      Hmmmm, I have a moustache but I think I'll wait till Winter to grow a beard.

    • profile image

      cmadden 5 years ago

      My husband had a mustache when we met, and it took me eight years to convince him to grow a beard to go with it (he was convinced it wouldn't grow out full enough). I doubt he'll ever shave it off now (it grew out very nicely, as I knew it would) - he's had it longer than it took me to convince him.

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 5 years ago

      I've grown a beard twice. Each time I did it to show my independence. I'll share that I found having a beard to be a bit of a nuisance. So now I shave. But hey, a man can do whatever he wants with his face.

    • profile image

      Oosquid 6 years ago

      At 65 I've just grown my first ever beard and I must say I'm already attached to it.

    • CNelson01 profile image

      Chuck Nelson 6 years ago from California

      A beard is a personal thing. I have had a moustache for many years and linked it to a goatee when my employment (law enforcement) allowed. It's neither good nor bad but it suits me and my wife doesn't mind a walk through the bushes when she's going to a picnic.

    • Redneck Lady Luck profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 6 years ago from Canada

      My husband shaves but his whiskers seem to start growing out again about 5 minutes after he shaves. I think that he could probably grow a beard quite quickly if he ever chose to do so. Great article on beards and their historic beginnings.

    • profile image

      dnmarket 6 years ago

      I actually learned some more about beards. Great job.

    • profile image

      Shadrosky 6 years ago

      A very unique lens! Good job!

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 6 years ago

      Fasinating idea for a lens.

    • garishwasil lm profile image

      garishwasil lm 6 years ago

      Cool lens. Where do you got this great idea.

    • ClassyGals profile image

      Cynthia Davis 6 years ago from Pittsburgh

      Love this lens! Blessed by a Squid Angel***

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 7 years ago

      Fun idea for a lens. Congrats on the blessings as well.

    • hayleylou lm profile image

      hayleylou lm 7 years ago

      **Blessed** and featured on My Time as a Squid Angel :)

    • profile image

      grannysage 7 years ago

      You come up with the most interesting stories. I love the one about Joseph Palmer. It is funny how traditions change. There are those religions where the men must wear beards. I tend to like the clean shaven myself, only because kissing a man with a beard is itchy. But I'm all for freedom of choice, and since I don't shave my legs (ssshhhh, don't tell anyone), I believe men shouldn't either. Unless they are swimmers, that's another issue. Fairy dusted by Granny FairyAngel.

    • redroses lm profile image

      Jenny Campbell 7 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      I think stupid moustaches are out because only insecure men wear them. A beard with a normal moustache is fine, except that, a bit of trimming would not go astray. Your mate Neil always keeps his very groomed though.

    • howdoyouspellst profile image

      howdoyouspellst 7 years ago

      Great lens!! I like the intro picture. I am not a fan of beards, but I really enjoyed this lens! Thanks!

    • KOrazem profile image

      Seeking Pearls 7 years ago from Pueblo West

      Fun lens-some can wear em and some shouldn't!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      @anonymous: Gotta love that great white beard of Neil's

    • profile image

      sandralynnsparks 7 years ago

      I loooove the ideas - beards comment!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I grew a totally rockin beard...and the girl i'm interested in doesn't like it so thick and wants me to make it more of a shadow : S she thinks the thickness is like pubic hair all over your face... back to the drawing board...

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Beards are great, and they just look like they belong on some men. I know several guys who grow a beard for winter to keep warm because they work outdoors, spring rolls around and the beard are gone. Each to their own!!!

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      @BarbRad: The designer stubble leaves a lot to be desired

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 7 years ago from Templeton, CA

      I can understand beard, mustache and clean-shaven. What I can't understand is the recent fashion of looking like you need a shave or like you are trying to grow a beard without getting very far. It seems sort of half-way, and I guess it's supposed to look sexy, but I think it just looks slovenly. It makes a man look indecisive, as if he can't make up his mind whether to have a beard or not. It also makes him look as though he's trying to grow a beard and can't. (JMHO) I'm glad my husband doesn't want one.

    • jmsp206 profile image

      Julia M S Pearce 7 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Great lens Susanna!I like a beard on some.Fashion unfortunately dictates to much.A great subject!

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 7 years ago from Canada

      Great topic! I voted for because they like to stroke their chins. It has been fun as my boys become men...stroking their 'beards' in jest.

      Love your title: "Beards are like Ideas: Men don't have them till they grow up." I'm going to be smiling for awhile after that one!

    • tandemonimom lm profile image

      tandemonimom lm 7 years ago

      What a lot of fun in this lens! My husband is among the bearded - because I won't let him shave it off! I love a hirsute manly man! ;-)

    • KangarooJase1 profile image

      KangarooJase1 7 years ago

      Aye, a great lens, one thats close to my heart :)

    • profile image

      Leanne Chesser 7 years ago

      This has been incredibly educational and fun! Beards are a strange phenomenon to me! I don't find them attractive at all! Anyway, blessed by an angel!

    • noxid25 profile image

      noxid25 8 years ago

      I have definitely learned a lot about beards - and in a fun way I might add! Great lens! 5 stars from me. :)

    • CCGAL profile image

      CCGAL 8 years ago

      I like this lens - it's funny and informative all at the same time. Good Job!

    • squid-janices7 profile image

      squid-janices7 8 years ago

      What an interesting lens topic. Personally I like my husband clean shaven. That said, I HATE shaving my legs and in the winter I tend to let it go a bit longer. So if I were a guy, I am pretty sure that I would look a bit scruffy sometimes....of course, that can be sexy on some people like George Clooney for instance :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Also highly recommended for anyone trying to grow a beard or with a beard is The Facial Hair Handbook. It's written by a two-time world beard champion Jack Passion; the man clearly knows beards! has more info.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago is probably the best web site for beard enthusiasts. Check it out.

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 8 years ago

      My husband has a beard. He talked about shaving it off when it started turning gray. I wouldn't let him. I love the beard.

    • Spook LM profile image

      Spook LM 8 years ago

      Were Neanderthal women attracted to hairy men? Not just them but all zee womans. Merry Xmas to you and yours. Blessed by an Angel.

    • Ram Ramakrishnan profile image

      Ram Ramakrishnan 8 years ago

      Being a bearded man whose first love is his beard, I love this lens too! Ah! the joy of stroking it when deep in thought.

    • CoolFoto profile image

      CoolFoto 8 years ago

      Very clever lens. Can't believe how many people have voted in your poll. Personally, I detest beards! Thanks for your visits to my lenses.

    • RuthCoffee profile image

      Ruth Coffee 8 years ago from Zionsville, Indiana

      A well kept beard can look nice, but kissing a man with a face full of hair isn't always fun. Then of course, there is the experience of having food and other debris stuck there...not so good. Interesting and fun lens.

    • profile image

      Kapalbility 8 years ago

      Funny stuff! Very witty. I grow a I-did-not-shave-for-two-days beard for fashion.

    • nickupton lm profile image

      nickupton lm 8 years ago

      This is an unusual lens!

      I am usually somewhere between bearded and shaved. I can't be bothered to shave very much but after about 4 days it becomes itchy and feels dirty.

      Recently I discovered that hair clippers with no guard on gives a shave that leaves about 1 day's worth of stubble. So now I have designer stubble like some 80s retro idiot - my excuse is that it avoids shaving rash.

    • ElizaRayner profile image

      Eliza Rayner 8 years ago from Boulder, Colorado

      I just had to check this lens out..quite and interesting topic, very enjoyable. thanks!

    • profile image

      myraggededge 8 years ago

      Really interesting beardy stuff here! My bloke used to have a moustache when he was younger but looked like a potential terrorist or, more likely, a cross between Burt Reynolds and a Chucklebrother.

      Thanks for adding to Hairy Men are Gorgeous plexo!

    • profile image

      JLCollins 8 years ago

      From a woman who loves her man's beard, entertaining lens!

    • Spook LM profile image

      Spook LM 8 years ago

      Cor I never knew there was so much behind having a beard. I've had one on and off ever since I was able to grow one and I once had a moustache. However it made me look like a weasel so went back to a beard which is now lilly white but my hair isn't. Strange and I don't and never would dye my hair.

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 8 years ago

      My husband has a beard and so do a couple of my brothers. I like beards except for when one of my tenth graders shows up for class with a full beard. Makes me wonder...

      Great lens

      Thanks for sharing


    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 8 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      Tee hee, I see a mustache I know quite well! And several versions of it. BuffaloKid told me you were going to immortalize his facial hair. :) Nice to see Neil, too! Very cool beard.

    • Lewister profile image

      Susan 8 years ago from Texas

      Congrats on winning the beards topic on the May Carnival of Squid!! -

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Great lens, as always, and an interesting and fun read. Thanks for sharing you partner with us. He sounds like a gentle man of the sea and a perfect partner for you. It's always nice getting those small bits and pieces of you from every lens. A 5 star in my book.

      My hubby has had a beard in various forms on and off over the years, but has always managed to keep a mustache, which I like.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I had a beard for a while but missed my face too much. However, I could never lose the mustache. It's my connection with the Wild West and to my Arizona ranching ancestry. Thanks for this fun lens. 5 stars in the sky.

    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 8 years ago

      Great lens. You approach it from interesting angles I hadn't thought of before. blessed.

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 8 years ago

      I like beards. My husband just shaved his off for a community theater play he is doing. Interesting lens!

    • MikeMoore LM profile image

      MikeMoore LM 8 years ago

      Very cool lens and ammusing too.

    • Stazjia profile image

      Carol Fisher 8 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      Interesting lens but still I'm not keen on big beards. I think they're only bearable when neatly trimmed and clean - no bits of food in them for example!