Why do men have beards?

posted in: Age of the Beard | 0

One of the main questions we are asking visitors about is the reasoning behind growing or keeping a beard. In the nineteenth century a myriad of motivations were given, many of them medical, in order to encourage an adorned chin. As Dr Alun Withey’s research has uncovered, the beard was considered ‘nature’s respirator’ – preventing all of those nasty Victorian fumes from getting to the skin and mouth – as well as being an aid to keeping the face warm in winter and cool in summer for all of those manly types hard at work out in the elements.

But what about today? Could today’s beard trend be put down to any medical or practical reasons? Could it be that with the onset of the financial crisis in 2008 and ensuing recession that razors have gradually become deemed an unnecessary luxury? Or that with the rise in ‘lifestyle’ blogging they’re part of a wider trend towards the natural and wholesome aesthetic, along with superfoods and raw wood furniture? Or are they simply a fashion accessory, added to plaid shirts and work boots for that Dalstonite lumberjack look?


Pogonologists Leslie Dunking and John Foley, in their excellent Guinness Book of Beards and Moustaches, provide a comprehensive list of 40 beardy benefits. Some of them make perfect sense, such as avoiding having to shave or to compensate for baldness. Others a bit less so, “makes a man look like a sailor without the tiresome business of having to go to sea” is amusing if not entirely plausible – although the ‘nautical’ look does seem to be in season at some point most years in the fashion cycle so maybe this isn’t as ‘out there’ as it first seems! “Baffles the police” is another less obvious one, perhaps the ‘hoody’ has taken on this purpose in more recent years. By the end of the list, one gets the feeling that they were running low on ideas, unless you know anyone who has used theirs as a painting tool? You can see the full list below.


If you’re a hirsute gentleman reading this post, do let us know what was behind your decision to cultivate facial shrubbery, and if you’re not, tell us what you think motivated the bearded men in your life.

Come along to Dr Alun’s talk on the Hirsute History of Facial Hair this Wednesday to find out more. Tickets.





Guinness Book of Beards and Moustaches, ‘40 positive reasons for growing a beard’ full list:

  • a beard appeals to male sex appeal;
  • makes a man look stronger;
  • makes him look more independent;
  • adds maturity;
  • adds sophistication;
  • adds virility;
  • avoids the need to cut the face to pieces with a razor;
  • saves money otherwise spent on razors, shaving creams etc;
  • avoids a stubbled face at the breakfast table;
  • avoids five o’clock shadow;
  • looks distinguished;
  • nature intended man to be bearded;
  • god intended man to be bearded;
  • warms the face in winter and cools it in summer;
  • makes a man look like a sailor without the tiresome business of having to go to sea;
  • covers facial scars;
  • makes a man look intellectual;
  • is decorative in its own right;
  • is something that the (normal) woman cannot do;
  • shows admiration of a role model;
  • compensates for baldness;
  • changes a man’s image;
  • makes a dull face look interesting;
  • hides a weak chin or mouth;
  • shows group membership;
  • saves time and energy spent on shaving;
  • changes the shape of a face;
  • baffles the police;
  • demonstrates a man’s attitude to the hypocritical concern for outward appearance that plagues far too many people;
  • arouses the curiosity of girls about what it is like to be kissed by a bewhiskered man;
  • makes a man look daring;
  • makes him look decisive;
  • shows that he is not servile;
  • confers prestige on one’s child;
  • can provide hair to stuff a cushion;
  • provides something to suck;
  • can be used to store toothpicks;
  • is useful for wiping one’s hands when they get dirty;
  • acts as a woolly scarf;
  • is there as a stand-by paintbrush or broom.







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