The Medical Case for Beards in the 19th Century

Given that it’s been a week for beard history, I thought I’d repost this from earlier in the year. Enjoy!

Dr Alun Withey

As Christopher Oldstone-Moore has argued in his excellent article about the Victorian ‘beard movement’, the middle years of the nineteenth century witnessed an abrupt volte-face in attitudes towards facial hair. The eighteenth century had been one where men were almost entirely clean-shaven. The face of the enlightened gentleman was smooth, his face youthful and his countenance clear, suggesting a mind that was also open. Growing a beard at this point would have been a deliberate act done purposefully to convey a message. John Wroe, for example, leader of the Christian Israelite group, let his beard grow wild to signify his withdrawal from society.

Image http://www.wakefield.gov.uk/CultureAndLeisure/HistoricWakefield/People/JohnWroe/default.htmhttp://www.wakefield.gov.uk/CultureAndLeisure/HistoricWakefield/People/JohnWroe/default.htm

By the mid-Victorian period, however, the beard came back into fashion with remarkable swiftness. Part of the reason for this was changing ideals of masculinity. This was the age of exploration, of hunters, climbers and explorers. As rugged adventurers began to tackle the terra incognita of…

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