Brad Pitt’s Legends of the Fall look was a big turn off, for even his most loyal fans. A decade or two later, and there’s now a website dedicated to the growing of beards. And another, with 10 reasons why every man (who can) should grow a giant beard.

Beards have waned in and out of fashion over the centuries. According to Wikipedia, “men with facial hair have been ascribed various attributes such as wisdom, sexual virility, masculinity, or a higher status; although beards may also be perceived to be associated with a lack of general cleanliness and a loss of refinement.”

Early records show that the highest ranking Ancient Egyptians wore beards, which were usually dyed with henna and occasionally plaited with gold thread. The fashion between around 1580 and 3000 BC was to wear a false metal beard, or postiche – a sign of sovereignty, “worn by queens, kings and sometimes cows.”

John Sellars says that in Greco-Roman antiquity, the beard was “seen as the defining characteristic of the philosopher; philosophers had to have beards, and anyone with a beard was assumed to be a philosopher.”

Over successive centuries, beards have also been a source of considerable pride for kings, noblemen, scholars and men of note – as they remain today in certain religions and, curiously, in the advertising and art worlds. Yes, although some companies, sports bodies and professions still have rules forbidding their employees to grow facial hair, big beards are no longer the preserve of hairy bikers – they are suddenly sprouting absolutely everywhere.

A Chicago Tribune video by Wes Pope explains some of the reasons why beards are back in style:

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Amongst my creative friends, Michael Lawson-Smith has a particularly fine example. As does cuddly (am I allowed to say that?) handbag designer, Emmanuel Katsaros – proof, if any more were needed, that full beards are fiercely in fashion.

Here’s what could happen if you just let yours grow and grow and grow…

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But do bear in mind that the hairiest men in the world (located in Mexico, according to a Mark Dolan’s 2009 Channel 4 documentary) are only considered fit for freak shows.

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  1. Worm on Saturday 17, 2012

    Sadly the world of the beard is closed to me – I can only manage a wispy bumfluff before it looks utterly ridiculous and my wife forces me to remove it

  2. mahlerman on Saturday 17, 2012

    Ditto Worm…..mine emerged as a sort of post-Bjorn Borg Viking look, but in a rusty-red hue, giving me a genuine child-molester look, and ensuring that on walks around our local park, youngsters would give me a sideways look waiting, I suppose, for me to open my mac and make them an offer.

  3. Daniel K on Saturday 17, 2012

    Most of those young american chaps have mere scruffy bum-fluff on their faces.

    A fine, and terrifying modern beard is that of the singer songwriter Will Oldham.

    Worm & Mahlerman, perhaps you should both grow one, shave it off, wait six months, and then let it regrow. My first beard, grown at the age of 27 was an unruly, patchy thing that I let sprout unattended for six months, but the second grown about a year later was a much stronger, hardier creature. I attend to it every 4 weeks or so, though I usually keep the moustache cropped so it doesn’t get in my food.

    The secret sign that it is time to get out the clippers is when I start to resemble a sailor. My beard grows outwards like Karl Marx’s, and not down, like Engels. Although I am told that if I trim the sides but let the area around the chin grow it is still possible to get the 19th century thinker look.

    • Susan on Saturday 17, 2012

      What a curiously cool fellow!

      • Daniel K on Saturday 17, 2012

        That’s my actual beard under that hat:

        In one of its more recently trimmed manifestations. I believe I had even shaved the hair on my neck, a practice long since abandoned unless I am attending funerals or weddings, and even then, maybe not.

  4. Hey Skipper on Saturday 17, 2012

    I grew a beard once, for a month. It kind of looked like a brown, gray, and blonde calico cat had glommed onto my face.

    I was perfectly happy to be rid of the thing.

    • Brit on Saturday 17, 2012

      Heh heh. Yes I put an end to mine when I could clearly detect six separate colours.

  5. Gaw on Saturday 17, 2012

    Walking to school this morning my six-year-old son informed me, unprompted, that he thought his little brother would look like Brad Pitt when he’d grown up. So does that mean he’s going to be good-looking? “No. Ugly.” That beard has seriously damaged young Pitt’s image.

    My sister has a powerful argument against beards: they tend to attract oxtail soup droplets which dry into a disgusting savoury-brown powdery crust. Women fear having to get close to such stuff.

    • Brit on Saturday 17, 2012

      So which flavours of soup DOES she like crusted into men’s beards, for goodness sake?

      • Gaw on Saturday 17, 2012

        Gosh women are a mystery are they not?

        • Gaw on Saturday 17, 2012

          I wonder what coffee beans taste like after having been passed through a beard?

          • Worm on Saturday 17, 2012

            With such valuable beans being strained through one’s facial hair, said beard, full of a delicious chocolatey-brown powdery crust, could then be shorn off and sold as a sort of ‘golden fleece’

  6. Susan on Saturday 17, 2012

    Brit, Gaw, Worm – I hesitate to imagine what such a beard would feel/taste/smell like… but I thought you might be interested in this old newsround item about an artist who uses his dreadlocked beard as a paintbrush.

    • Susan on Saturday 17, 2012

      click on to photo no.9

  7. Susan on Saturday 17, 2012

    PS – A final word from The Beards

  8. [...] week Susan offered us a fine post on Biblical beards. Among the images selected to illustrate the text was a photo of [...]