A Clean Look at the History of Beards

Men are blessed in many ways. However, one blessing that most men can own up to is the ability to grow a beard. Perhaps, it is really a curse, because if one wants the clean-shaven look – there is a daily ritual. This is probably not a bad thing, because it provides a time of solitude and stillness in the family bathroom.

A study of the history of mankind gives a strange picture about beards – there does not seem to be a lot of logic to when and where beards are and are not appropriate. There were times in history that having a beard, could get the wearer beaten or killed, could get the person thrown out of the church or could cause the wearer to be taxed at a higher rate. Taxing a beard these days, would make us all shave twice daily!

The removal of face hair must have been very painful thousands of year ago, as they first simply plucked out the hairs, then they sharpened anything that they could get their hands on, like shells, crystals and flints to cut their beards. At one stage Greek philosophers wanted everyone to believe that a beard was a sign of wisdom, but later some of the war-farers saw beards as an impediment to war and soldiers were ordered to shave.

Peter I (late 17th century) and Henry VIII (early 16th century) declared that beards should not be worn and ordered their officials to shave and added a tax for those who wished to keep a beard. Henry however grew a beard, because he was king! Clergymen in the 16th century were clean-shaven as a sign of celibacy, so with the reformation, many who left the church grew a beard, as an outward sign of rebellion. The longer the beard the greater the protest! The beard tax continued in England with Elizabeth I, as a revenue raiser for the government.

A number of interesting beard customs over the years:

1. Amish men shave until they marry, then after marriage they shave no more.

2. Alexandra the Great made his soldiers shave, so that their beards could not be grabbed during hand to hand combat.

3. An old German tribe member was not allowed to shave until he had killed an enemy.

4. Roman boys would not remove facial hair until they reached manhood. The first shave would be offered to their idols.

5. WWI soldiers could not have a beard, because wearing a beard did not give an effective seal on the gas-mask.

There are always interesting facts found when any subject is researched. Beards are no exception.

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