Over the course of history, a man's ability to grow hair on his face was often linked to wisdom, power, strength and virility. A man’s choice of facial hair could reveal a lot: his ancestral origins, political leanings, socio-economic standing, maybe even spiritual beliefs.
Conversely, his willingness to have facial hair was either hailed or mocked, depending on the trend of the day. But is there anything more to moustaches, goatees and beards than fashion?
With some ebb and flow, for hundreds of years, a good set of whiskers appealed to the ladies. Fashion aside, that’s enough to get any youngish man to put down the straight razor. Beards are trustworthy, as are goatees with moustaches and moustaches on their own. (I’m not making this up —there’s a totally scientific chart on the internet!) Apparently, Abraham Lincoln grew his beard on the advice of an 11 year old girl who believed it would help him win the election: The ladies, she reasoned, would like his whiskers so much, they could convince their husbands to vote for him. He did win, so maybe she had a point.
But every time period has had it’s bubble of preferred facial hair: Men generally weren’t clean-shaven in the 1800s, but that tide had turned by the 1970s. Moustaches seemed to spike in the early 20th century and, apart from a brief resurgence in the 70s and 80s, have never really recovered. (Movember, of course, has done a lot for moustaches since 2003. The movement has raised over $650 million for charity, boosting awareness of prostate cancer, testicular cancer, poor mental health and physical inactivity.) The Guardian believes we reached “peak beard” in both 2013 and 2014, depending on the article. Of course, facial hair is still wildly popular today, whether we’re talking about full, extremely long beards or just some creative stubble.
So what does all this mean, really? Like fashion, it all comes down to generational divides: we don’t like what our parents like and what’s old is new again. Sadly, that means that our current fascination with whiskers will likely recede again and soon.