Movember special - A brief history of facial hair


In this Movember special, let us surf through the ancient civilisations and cultures and see what they thought of facial fuzz!

We start with Britain, of course. The British had a very confused relationship with hair and the ebb and tide of fashions took them from the full moustachioed and bearded times of King Arthur etc to the Periods of Henry IV where only a moustache was considered civilized. Then of course, that was also gone and a clean shaven look became the mark of the English gentleman. Heartwarmingly though scientists like Charles Darwin bucked an otherwise inexorable trend towards the suicide of daily facial hair known as shaving.

The French though had no such ambiguity with regards to their vote for facial hair. Asterix, for long, the pall bearer of the French pride sported a glorious blond moustache. Witness also the glorious fuzz of the small indomitable Gallic village that was home for Asterix and his friends. The advent of scientific temperament brought in changes just and one witnessed the horrors of a clean-shaven Napoleon. However, that was put firmly aside by subsequent generations in favour of a more modernized and designer fuzz like the one of Charles de Gaulle and more artistically the iconic moustache of the fictional Hercule Poirot.

Not for such pusillanimity though amongst the German and Viking ranks. Even the gods such as Thor and Odin had moustaches that struck deep terror amongst their subjects, who tried their best to emulate their gods. The deep, abiding faith with the fierce hairy look continues through the centuries with the famous German emperors such as Kaiser, Frederic William III and to this day where the recent world beard and moustache championships attracted record participation with awards in no less than 18 categories.

Moving south, one comes across a more rational and detached relationships that the Romans and Arabs had towards their moustaches and beards. While the Romans thought it uncivilized and a sign of low intellect, maybe a reflection of their attitudes towards their subjects in the middle east. The middle easterners though had a diametrically opposite opinion of it. The superstars of Arabia such as Moses, Jesus and Prophet had a kindly, gentle beard that symbolized the wisdom therein. As time progressed, Islam codified the rules of the game governing facial hair with its prescription towards the length and depth of the beards to the extent that we witness the identikit beard movement throughout arabia and the islamic lands. Coming to think of it, with such precise prescriptions, an aspiring entrepreneur can easily make a business out of being a Sharia beard trimmer.

Going further to India, we come across a very evolved folklore wherein the Gods and priests were clean shaven and the Demons and Kings had a fierce moustache. However, when the moustache and beard were both present, then it was the symbol of a sage. The onslaught of clean shaven religions such as Buddhism and Jainism did little to dampen the hairy affair of Hindus. Then came Sikhism, a religion that did full justice to the human hair potential.

As we move further east, the outlook becomes scraggy. The long, thin and wiry beards of the Ming emperors is very well known as a symbol of their benign wisdom. As if to prove the association of beards with wisdom, the wise sages, confucius and lao-tsu, had flowing beards. It is some food for thought that the founders of most of the leading religions of the world today were beardly-wise figures.

As we go eastward further all the way to Easter island, it is worth noting something queer about moai, the famous statues of Easter islands. There were many of them and are very impressive. But none with a moustache. This surely lends credence to some of the UFO-origin theories floating around! (pun intended)

We leave the African civilizations out of our coverage, as they had the least amount of facial hair. Its possible that they are much advanced than the rest of us. If that is where evolution will take us, i worry about the future of mankind, not the womankind. Maybe there wont be any Movember in the future!

And so, we come to the end of Movember. Welcome december and with it santa claus with his white snowy moustache and flowing beard!


Last edited on : November 1, 2015