There is always a period when a man with a beard shaves it off. This period does not last. He returns headlong to his beard.



JEAN COCTEAU (1889-1963)


Beards in War

Alexander the Great banned beards from his army where before they had been very popular. This prohibition occurred after his troops lost several battles to the Persians because they would grab the Greeks by the beard, pull them off their horse and either capture or slay them.

Many modern armies have banned facial hair unless the soldier first gets express permission, including Finland, Ireland, Mexico, Norway and the USA.

Reasons for requesting permission to have a beard include religion, acne, or going on tour in Afghanistan and other Muslim countries to aid relations with the local people.

The prohibition of beards is based on reasons of both practicalities such as the wearing of gas masks or simply for the purpose of aesthetics.


You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion.

Sex Appeal

The attractiveness of a beard and the popularity of beards are inversely correlated. When beards are rare, they become significantly more attractive. This may be because sexual partners are preferred when they have novel or rare appearances; this is true in species other than humans such as guppies (though not with beards). It is a way of preserving diversity within a population. We reached ‘peak beard’ in 2014 according to a group of Australian scientists, so it's likely they'll start becoming less popular.

It was also found that beard popularity increased when there are more available men than there are women.

Frank Beard, the drummer of ZZ Top, is the only member of the band to not have a beard.

Beard trimming is banned by the Bible.

Henry VIII put a tax on beards, but made his own exempt.


As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affectation if I were to begin it now?

Famous Beards

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin favoured the Van Dyke beard, named after the 17th century Dutch painter, but had to shave it off in order to smuggle himself back from Finland to lead the October Revolution in 1917. There is a rumour that Stalin shaved it off for him. He didn’t let a photographer near him until January 1918, when he felt his image had regained its propaganda value.

Fidel Castro grew a beard for practical reasons while his guerilla army was sleeping rough in the Cuban jungle. But when people started calling the rebels ‘Los Barbudos’ (‘the bearded ones’), he realised its power. ‘We kept our beards to preserve the symbolism of the Revolution,’ he wrote in his autobiography. He added that it also made practical sense as not shaving saved 10 days across a lifetime, which a man ‘can devote to work, to reading, to sport, to whatever you like.’ The power of Castro’s beard led the CIA to conceive a plot in the early 60s to a treat his shoes with thallium salt: ‘a potent depilatory that would cause his beard, eyebrows, and pubic hair to fall out... like a follicle deprived Samson.’

Charles Darwin only grew his famous beard in his mid-fifties. He suffered from terrible eczema, which was made worse by shaving. The change was remarked on by many of his friends. Joseph Hooker the botanist wrote to him in 1864: ‘Glorified friend, your photograph tells me where Herbert got his Moses for the frescoe in the House of Lords.’

Abraham Lincoln only wore a beard for the last five years of his life. But his decision to adopt his characteristic ‘chin-curtain’ beard gave him iconic status – many people still call it the ‘Lincoln’. Before Lincoln, no President had a beard; after Lincoln until William Howard Taft (1913), every President except Andrew Johnson and William McKinley had either a beard or a moustache.

162,719 pints of Guinness are absorbed by beards and moustaches each year.

Bearded Women

It is true that many female pharaohs wore false beards, but it was not to imitate a man, as is commonly believed. Male pharaohs shaved meticulously and wore metal beards to imitate the Egyptian god of the dead, Osiris. These fake beards would be passed from ruler to ruler, so when a woman ascended the throne, she often wore the beard to uphold tradition.

Elsewhere in the ancient world, in ancient Greece, the young brides of Argos would fix false beards to their chins on their wedding night so that they would not be inferior to their husbands.

Saint Wilgefortis is the patron saint of abused wives and her physical appearance is notable for her large beard. Her story goes that she was betrothed to a pagan king by her father. She prayed to God to make her ugly and in return she took a vow of virginity. Her prayers were answered and she grew a beard which stopped this unwanted marriage. Angry at the failed engagement, her father crucified her. Many images of her were originally of Christ being crucified and were repurposed by adding breasts and women’s clothes.


It’s not a beard, it’s an animal I’ve trained to sit very still.

The french for candy-floss is barbe à papa, or ‘dad’s beard’.

The Beards is an Australian band who write and perform songs only about the advantages of having a beard.

One beardsecond is a unit of length equal to the average amount a beard grows in one second, equivalent to 5 nanometers.