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History of Beards

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The beard has a long and checkered history. Falling in and out of favor. The fashion statement that has been used as a symbol of power to an expression of rebellion to everything in between.

Beards have been associated historically with religion. The ancient Hebrews wore beards, and the long, flowing beards of their patriarchs were a symbol of wisdom and maturity. The beard was cut only during periods of mourning. Although the Egyptians shaved, a false beard was worn by both kings and queens as a sign of authority. Moslems wore their beards trimmed.

Beards have not been common among members of the Roman Catholic clergy. In the Middle Ages a cleric was called a "shorn man." In some religious orders, however, such as the Capuchins, a beard must be worn as a sign of penance. Beards are usually worn by the Greek Orthodox clergy.

Through the centuries, beards have undergone many changes in style and popularity. The ancient Assyrians and Persians wore beards that were frequently dyed. The Greeks are often shown with long curling beards, but Alexander the Great ordered his soldiers to shave to avoid giving their enemies something to grasp. Shortly before the Christian era, shaving was common in Greece and Rome, but after Hadrian became emperor in 117 A.D., beards came back into fashion.

In England, beards went out of style after the Norman Conquest in 1066, but returned about the middle of the 13th century. Beards were unfashionable during the 15th century until the reign of Henry VIII. For the next 100 years, beards were worn in many different styles. In the reigns of Charles II and Queen Anne the wig replaced the beard as an ornament.

When the wig went out of style, early in the 19th century, the beard once again returned and became popular among military men, radical politicians, and artists. The 1890's marked the end of the fashion, and beards are less often seen in Europe or the United States in the 20th century.

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