A Brief History
On September 1, 2018, men across the world get revenge on women for living longer and getting better car insurance deals, by celebrating World Beard Day! Next time some woman tells you, “I can do anything better than you!” you tell that feisty female, “Oh yeah? Let’s have a beard growing contest.” (Unfortunately, some women can actually grow a beard, especially with hormone treatment, so be careful who you challenge.) Although we have not had a bearded President for many years, and the fact that Russia once instituted a tax on beards in order to discourage their growth, and the even more unfortunate event when the man with the world’s longest beard (At the time, a mere 4.5 feet long) tripped over it and died in 1560, we still intend to honor those among us sporting a luxurious growth of whiskers on their face. (The author and the Editor/Owner of this site do not currently have beards.) The man with the longest beard in history was Hans Langseth, and his beard was cut off when he died (South Dakota) in 1927 and is in the National Museum of Natural History.
So what kind of man wears a beard? Starting with most depictions of Jesus Christ, we have to say some very important and famous ones. Abe Lincoln was clean shaven until a lady told him to grow a beard and he got elected President. In fact, 5 Presidents have worn beards and several others had moustaches and or sideburns. (The last President with a real beard, not just mutton chops, was Benjamin Harrison, 1889-1893.) Many Kings have been bearded, and one of the most popular lizards to keep as a pet is the Bearded Dragon. Shakespeare, Lenin, and the head of the Greek Gods, Zeus, all had beards. While Lenin, Karl Marx, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Kaiser Wilhelm and the guy that drove the Titanic into an iceberg all had beards, we prefer to remember the more socially acceptable bearded men.
When Mark McGwire was chasing and catching the single season home run record in 1998 he sported a neat goatee, while his #1 opponent, Sammy Sosa, did not. Big Mac won the home run crown and set the major league record with 70 home runs, initiating a craze of young ballplayers to sprout facial hair. (In the old day, before the 1970’s, ballplayers were not allowed to wear facial hair.) Today many famous and not famous athletes have beards, including football players, baseball players, fighters, and the best basketball player of his time, LeBron James.
Other celebrities, especially in the entertainment industry, have appeared with and without beards, such as Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Russell Crowe, Jimmy Kimmel and many others. If you like beards, the rock band ZZ Top is for you! Even George Clooney has been known to grow some hairs, and former Vice-President Al Gore grew a beard after leaving office.
Some of the more famous ladies with the curse/ability of beard growing include Julia Pastrana, a Mexican woman born in 1834, who became famous not just for her beard but also for her facial appearance which resembled that of an ape. She died at the age of 26 due to complications after child birth. Another well known bearded lady was PT Barnum’s prize freak show exhibit, Annie Jones, who made a decent living showing off her facial hair. She also died young, at the age of 37. A star of the 1932 movie, Freaks, was Jane Barnell as the “bearded lady,” and her life went sideways when her mother sold her to a freak show when Jane was only 4 years old! Harnaam Kaur, an English woman of Indian descent born in 1990 is well known today for being an Instagram star. Then there is Conchita Wurst, another current “bearded lady” that is not even really a woman, but a drag queen! (He was born in 1988 in Austria.)
Goats have beards, and so do some breeds of dogs. Even Wild Turkeys have beards, and they make pretty good bourbon. Questions for students: Who is your favorite bearded person? What do you think of beards? Do you have a beard? Please share any interesting beard stories with us clean shaven types and by all means, enjoy World Beard Day.
Note: Since you want to know and read the entire article, Hans Langseth’s beard was an astonishing 17.5 feet long!)
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For more information, please see…
Grosswirth, Marvin and Albert Siringo. The Art of Growing a Beard. Dover Publications, 2014.
Rainwaters, Matthew. Beard. Chronicle Book, 2012.
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