“Oh wow, I like your beard. You must really love Duck Dynasty.”

A little girl exclaimed to her father tonight at Daniel’s baseball game, “daddy he looks like Santa Claus! He has a beard just like Santa Claus!” So yes, my beautifully manicured hair sits atop a face that has a luscious beard. I must say that I have a pretty gorgeous man mane. Lions would be jealous of the beauty that flows from my face. I have been growing my beard out for about two years now and show no signs of stopping. I had grown one out for a year before that but reluctantly shaved it, so now I am taking my time and growing out this beautiful gift to my face. I love my beard for the most part and have received very positive vibes from it but the fact that I live in the South causes a lot of flack to be given to the cause of me sporting a beard. I guarantee that I heard “you must really like Duck Dynasty” or my favorite “hey, Santa Claus,” which is equally offensive because I’m overweight. I know that most people mean well by their statements but it still gets annoying after a while. I just wonder why having a beard is not socially unacceptable as it used to be. I mean Abraham Lincoln had a beard. Jesus had a beard. The guys from ZZ Top have beards. I’d say I’m among great company but the dirty looks that I get from some people tell me that something happened along the way to deter everyone from viewing the beard in a positive light.

You would honestly have to have been living under a rock to not recognize that men’s facial hair has gained a lot of popularity in the last couple of years. Simply a beard is just a collection of hair that grows on the chin and cheeks of human beings. Generally, only pubescent or adult males can grow a full beard. Throughout history, there has been many cultural attitude shifts for and against the beard. In certain religions, ie Islam) it is essential to their dogma. Other religions around the world have viewed a man’s ability to grow a beard as an outward display of his virility (specifically in regards to strength, sexual attraction, social status, and most of all his intelligence). So why are beards also known to be dirty or negative?

lebnese sculptureIn ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, China, Iran and Greece regarded the beard as a symbol of dignity and wisdom. The Gaelic Celt men of Scotland bearded irishmanand Ireland thought it to be a true dishonor to have no facial hair. It wasn’t until the time of Alexander the Great that Alexander ordered his soldiers to shave their luscious locks to prevent their enemies from grabbing their beards in battle. So, the Romans were among the first in early history to start the shaving trend. Shaving was a very alien concept to them, so much that it appeared in the record books. Scipio Africanus was apparently the first among the Romans to shave his beard and of course the trend caught on quickly.

In portraits dating throughout the Ming dynasty, most Chinese emperors appeared to sultan selim IIIhave beards or mustaches but that ceased during the Qing Dynasty. A couple of hundred miles in European, as far back as the 15th century, males were clean-shaven for the most part. Beards became less and less popular, and even led to Peter the Great of Russia ordering men to shave off their beards in 1698 which led to a 1705 tax levy on beards which he hoped would make the Russians appear to be more like the more ‘modern’ Western Europeans. This took a turn in the 1850s when popular figures like Napoleon, Charles Dickens, Karl Marx, Giuseppe Garibaldi, and even lincolnretained their popularity with post-Civil War presidents like Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson. By the time the 20th century rolled around, the beard was starting to decline in popularity. Although some popular figures in the Victorian period like Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein and Vladmir Lenin still retained a level of facial hair but mostly limited themselves to a mustache or a trimmed goatee. In the 1950s ‘beatniks’, hippies and even prominent businessmen wore beards. The trend of men wearing full beards went away with the coming of the 80s and into the 90s and 2000s saw the rise of the Verdi beard (which is the Backstreet Boy-esque closely clipped beard with matching integrated mustache. This continued in popularity until 2010 when the full beard came into its glorious popularity again. Bearded men are called ‘lumbersexual’ and this trend is extremely popular with ‘hipsters’.

bearded hipsterWhether for religious reasons or strictly as a fashion statement, beards are going to be around. Do I understand how people could them as unattractive? Sure I can. The truth of the matter is, is that people have donned beards for centuries and they have varied in popularity since the beginning of time. Just remember that there are more people in this world than don the beard than the homeless, old hobos, Santa Claus and the Duck Dynasty hunting crew.

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