The Significance of Beards Throughout History | Shaves2U

The Significance of Beards Throughout History

Did you know that young men from the ancient Germanic tribe called Chatti were not allowed to cut or shave their beards until they had slain an enemy?

Humans sported beards for various reasons since prehistoric times. For example, our earliest ancestors grew beards for warmth, protection against natural elements, and a sign of intimidation and dominance, similar to a lion's mane.

Throughout history, beards bore a lot of symbolism and meant a great deal to the various cultures around the world. Beards generally represent masculinity and dominance, but different ancient societies and communities have varying views about the male beard.


Greece

Beards were a sign of honour, virility and wisdom for the Greeks. Men during this time take a lot of pride in their beards, which explains why many statues of notable Greeks sport beards. A Greek satirist and writer, Lucian of Samosata, however once famously commented, 'If you think that to grow a beard is to acquire wisdom, a goat with a fine beard is at once a complete Plato.'

Despite beards having so much significance in the ancient Greek society, Alexander the Great ordered his soldiers to shave because he believed enemy Persians could grab their beard and kill them. The only other time when Greeks shave their beards was when during the mourning of a death.


Egypt

Facial hair was common on Egyptian men before the pre-dynastic era, but the clean-shaven look was in favour when the early dynastic period rolled in. They consider thick moustaches, beards and eyebrows unhygienic, and they didn't have much body hair either.

While facial hair wasn't popular in ancient Egypt, pharaohs, both male and female, were seen with artificial plaited beards. They wear these false rectangular beards with the aim to link themselves with Osiris, the god of death and the afterlife. The beards were also a sign of mightiness and expressed their status as living gods.


Rome

Unlike the Greeks, the men of ancient Rome considered long curled beards barbaric and off-putting. Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, the king of Rome, introduced razors in his attempt to encourage the habit of shaving, although it took about a century to catch on. During this era, people would assume you are a Greek if you had a full beard, and a Roman if you were clean-shaven.

When Hadrian became the emperor of Rome, he bought the bearded look back into fashion. Rumours said he grew a beard to hide a skin condition on his face, others believe it was because he was a philhellene, a person that has a love for the Greek culture.


China

Chinese philosopher Confucius once said that the human body was a gift from one's parents, and no alterations should be made. He discouraged people from cutting their hair, nails and beards. Most of the terracotta warriors from the Qin dynasty also sported a moustache, goatee or at most, a thin beard as it was the custom to cherish facial hair.

Not everyone followed Confucius’ teachings though; farmers and soldiers didn't grow their beard as it would interfere with their work.


India

Men in ancient India had no restrictions when it comes to growing their beard. A beard is very sacred to an Indian man, and the men took great care of them. A long beard was also a sign of wisdom and dignity.

Similar to the men in Greece, the act of cutting a man's beard was a form of punishment for licentiousness and adultery in ancient India. An Indian back then would also often pledge his beard for the payment of a debt.


Beard symbolism today

These days, beards are more of a personal choice and a fashion statement. Although most modern-day professions prefer the clean-shaven look, the bearded look is starting to become more acceptable in today's society.

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