Since ancient times, mankind has known the "hipsters" of their time with mighty beards. They were either rulers with the symbol of their power: the real or the false beard, or they were the creative individuals or brave soldiers, whose beard was not only a manifestation of style, but also a sign of professional belonging.
So how did it all begin? Of course, in different periods of history, people tried to highlight this epic decoration of man's face by styling and exposing them to various creative experiments.
King Ashur-nasir-pal II of the Assyrian Empire meets a high official during a review of soldiers and war prisoners. He is accompanied by a parasol-bearer and is watched over by a winged deity. He holds a bow and a pair of raised arrows, symbolising victory in battle. From the North-West Palace at Nimrud, about 865-860 BC; now in the British Museum Image: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain
Hatshepsut: the Legendary Queen of Ancient Egypt Who Had a False Beard
In ancient times, beard and mustache were seen as a sign of strength, masculinity and freedom. That's why many ancient civilizations used for cutting / shaving beards and mustache, because it was a sign of slavery and subjugation.
The shape of beard and mustache is not only a reflection of the fashion trend of time, but also a testimony of world view and even political affiliation. Facial hair care tools, such as shaving accessories - razors are found in archaeological excavations. So, ancient civilizations gave great importance to mustache and beard care. In Babylon and Assyria, shaving accessories were known since the time of King Nebuchadnezzar (605 - 562 BC).
In Ancient Egypt, beard was the privilege of rulers. Pharaohs were wearing specially designed false beards. And such a special symbol of power and even a style sign did not disappear in later times. The creators of Persian Empire also highlighted the false beards as a sign of the ruler and the noblemen. They even used beard cases that could greatly exaggerate their natural beards and create the typical image of a ruler.
In the ancient world, shaving supplies gained popularity only during the Hellenistic period of Alexander the Great. The mediators between the Greek and Roman culture - Etruscans, once showed both expressive, long and carefully formed oriental style beards. But the Romans took the beard's shaving habit from the Greeks and as such the practice became a common part of everyday life. Only during the times of Emperor Hadrian (117-138) fashion for beards and mustache flourished again.
The cyclical nature of fashion processes also showed some paradoxical peculiarity. When longer hairstyles came in fashion, or just more attention was paid to hairstyles, the beard was no longer fashionable ... Often epic beards were replaced by mustache which was carefully formed and not too flashy. In the 14th and 15th centuries of the Duchy of Burgundy men wore short haircuts, but their beards and mustache were not a topical feature of style. In the Baroque era of 17th century with impressive wigs and curled hairstyles, it was quite common to wear a small mustache. More and more attention to mustache and beard styles were paid in the next centuries.
From the Dark Ages to the Romantic Heroes of the New Era
The heroes of the Viking Age had a long and bushy beards, but their influence in Europe was not always taken with enthusiasm. In the dark Middle Ages, bearded Christians were not regarded as decent people. The Catholic Church once claimed a war on mustache and beards as they were associated with habits that were not belonging to Christianity.
During the 9th century Pope Gregory IV launched a verbal war against bearded priests. In the 1100's this visually associative link with paganism had reached not only the clergy but also the entire Christian world. In the beginning of the 12th century, the entry into the church for bearded men could have meant a social condemnation, as it was perceived as a sign of heresy and a sign of paganism. At the same time, French bishop Serlo from Séez compared bearded men with 'goats and saracins'. [1.] The condemnation of the clergy did not prevent the kings and nobles from wearing the beard and making them a fashion sign of their era. The King of Henry I was also condemned by the clergy. [1.]
Waves of bearded fashion came and faded away during the Renaissance fashion era: from the early Italian renaissance era, when the beard was no longer fashionable until the Reformation's mighty beards and then, once again with Spanish fashion and pointed beards.
The fashion for beards began to disappear in the 17th century. It happened at the times King Louis the XIV of France. The Noblemen were ready to imitate, at that time the young king (1660's), and began to actively use shaving tools. In the 17th century, the mustache had become a sign of the military rank. This continued in the 18th and 19th centuries, when the mustache became the pride of the officers. In Central European countries, the officers had a mustache even at the beginning of the 20th century.
In the 19th century, whiskers, expressive backenbart, and even epic beards became a sign of creativity, a visible proof of the lifestyle of artists, writers, and bohemians. The beards got a variety of styles and variations, pointing to the personal image of a monarch or the rebellious position of an artist.
The nobles and celebrities always dictated the tone of beard fashion. To this day, the various stylistic variations of beards and mustaches are showing an eclectic heritage of past styles. Here are some of the most popular names: pointed beard in the style of French King Henry the IV, backenbart of Franz Josef, mustache in the taste of Wilhelm the II, etc.
Beard and mustache became a symbol of the political views for the Democrats in 1848. It was also in the 19th century in Italy, where the followers of Giuseppe Garibaldi chose a beard as a visual reflector of their belief. And so it continued in the 20th century, when the style and a special form of beard and mustache became a visual difference between creative groups. It was also a symbol of creativity for stage artists.
Style With A Meaning
The cheek-beard (German - Backenbart) came into fashion in England at the end of the 18th century. In the 19th century, Franz Josef's backenbart, which literally formed the shape of the letter "W", became widely known.
Chevalier or cavalry style mustache appeared in the 17th century France. They were just as thin as the tangles and rolled out quite bluntly. The images of the literal stems from the novel "The Three Musketeers" of Alexandre Dumas are probably the most striking reflections of this mustache style.
Henri's the IV-style beard made up the point at the bottom. It had a variety of styles and was most associated with the 16th century Spanish aristocrats.
These are just some of the style variations. ^^ As we can see, the epic beard styles of antiquity are quite creatively interpreted in the circles of 21st century hipsters, bohemians and creative people. It seems that there is no "false beard" anywhere ... but it is likely that its renaissance is still awaited!
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My name is Edīte Parute and I am a fashion historian and researcher from Latvia, association member at "The Association of Dress Historians" (UK) and author of the book "Stila un modes enciklopēdija"/"Encyclopedia of Style and Fashion" (2010) as well as author of many publications.
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