A beard is facial hair that grows on the chin and cheeks of men. It is a simple natural phenomenon that has excited a variety of different emotions in both men and women. Many religions have clear views on beards and they have been either espoused or forbidden by holy men and saints of all religions. Beards are today a fashion statement, a symbol of masculinity and independence. They suggest style, good breeding and an artistic flair. They are also worn flamboyantly, fashionably or as an anti-establishment statement of the youth.
FACT 1: The fashion world identifies different beard styles. They are the goatee, the balbo, the chin strip, chin curtain, mutton chops, and soul strip and of course the full beard. Modern beards are well tended. They are shampooed, trimmed and conditioned.
FACT 2: Beards are considered by some women as fantastic and a beautiful expression of masculinity sand independence. Pogonophile is the term for the love of beards, though women who love beards refer to themselves as beardophiles. They prefer the tickle of full beard against the skin to the painful sand paper like rasp of a shaved chin. On the other hand many women hate beards. David Beckham had to shave or face a kissing ban from Victoria.
FACT 3: Attitudes towards beards have undergone many changes. Many people equate a bearded person with a homeless person. Beards in all forms were forbidden at the workplace or in business. Today men from all professions are sporting trendy beards.
FACT 4: The different eras of Christianity have propagated different standpoints on the subject of the bears. Jesus Christ is often depicted with a full beard. St Clement of Alexandria deplored the practice of removing facial hair. He said of men who shaved, ‘unless you see them naked you would suppose them to be women’. St Augustine used the term bearded to describe a man who was courageous earnest, active and vigorous. In later years, sporting a beard was taboo for Christian holy men. This ban continued for centuries and was relaxed only during the Renaissance. Today orthodox Christians support the Biblical pro beard view. The Protestants and Catholics follow the prevailing hair fashions.
FACT 5: Some Muslim scholars consider the beard to be God’s way of distinguishing men from women. They consider shaving haram or forbidden. Others argue that shaving is merely makruh or undesirable.
FACT 6: Keeping a long beard is one of the main tenets of Sikhism. This is again related to masculinity. In many Hindu communities shaving is considered a sign of returning to the purity of infancy. Men who have shaved do not have sex for a prescribed period of time. Ascetics keep themselves permanently hairless and give up sex entirely.
FACT 7: Some Amish sects sport beards as a sign of masculinity and forcibly shave off the beards of their enemies to emasculate them. This follows biblical tradition. The Ammonites humiliated the emissaries of King David by forcibly shaving off their beards.
FACT 8: Today there is a generational aspect to beard tolerance. Beards are trendy among hipster youth. These funky fellows have started to dye their beards all colours of the rainbow. They call themselves ‘mermen’. Research conducted by the University of New South Wales reveals that attitudes towards beards are influenced mostly by the novelty factor.
FACT 9: The cruellest version of a fictional bearded man is undoubtedly Bluebeard, of the French folktale, immortalised by Charles Perrault. This giant of a man with a flowing blue beard was the original serial killer. He killed his successive wives and locked their bodies in a closet. Blackbeard was a notorious pirate who was killed off the coast of North Carolina in the 1718.
FACT 10: The Esquire magazine spotted many celebrity beards at the 2015 Golden Globe Awards. They included Jared Leto, Jamie Dornan, Ryan Goshin, Chris Pratt, Riki Hall, Dean DeBlois, Bryan Cranston and Jack Black.