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A brief history of beard



H&PC Today (TKS Publisher)


As of puberty, a man will grow facial hair. Women will do the same yet to a much lesser extent. While women will simply try to get rid of hair routinely, men will typically deal with hair, or better play with it, by combing, trimming, shaping or simply shaving it. Facial hair is the most evident, secondary sexual characteristic in males, thus it’s perfect to show manhood to women and warn other men to stay away. Hence, not surprisingly, the way a beard (and a moustache) has been considered and managed socially has constantly changed over the centuries.


As the most recent research seems to demonstrate, humans have been “hairless” (actually, our body is covered with hair, it’s just that it has increasingly thinned and shortened) for over one million years (1). There are only a few areas of our body where hair still grows relatively thick: the head, the armpits and, as with men, the face, the latter forming a beard and a moustache. These changes occurred because of evolutive pressure (2), and the differences between hair growth in men and women were probably caused by a sexual selection process driven by men. Beard could also have been grown to make the jaw look larger, thus the face more menacing, so to intimidate rivals.
Therefore, a beard became a peculiar feature of human males. It showed masculinity, hence the practice of grooming it would gain a social, cultural and even political meaning in time.


Not surprisingly, given their aesthetic inclinations, Egyptians were among the earliest civilisations to develop a “beard culture”: the men in the highest ranks grew a beard which they used to decorate with golden t ...

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