19 Facts About Beards and Mustaches

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You may sport a ‘stache, goatee, beard, or even some fine mutton chops, but do you know the story hiding behind your stubble? While the biology of beards seems rather straightforward, facial hair facts are full of surprises. Each era has had its own unique designs too, whether for show or practicality. Political and social events have influenced men to grow – or shave – their mustaches and beards. Read on to find out some fun facts about your facial hair.

1. The world’s longest beard was grown by Hans Langseth of North Dakota to a length of 17 feet when trimmed at his death in 1927. His beard shows layers of different colors caused by changes in the cycles of hair over its 67 years of growth.

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The Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., now exhibits the beard in the National Museum of Natural History, and scientists may analyze it in the future to determine what daily living was like at a certain point in time. Talk about a long legacy!

2. Are you afraid of growing a full beard because it’s not all one luscious color? Don’t worry, it’s not unusual to have a different color hair in your beard than on your head. This is a genetic trait that does not often become apparent until your facial hair grows out. The melanin pigment that causes light hair and the eumelanin pigment that causes dark are distributed in various combinations through the hair follicles, so no two hairs are the same. Outside influences such as sun and stress can make your hair turn grey too.

3. A bearded or mustachioed president has not been elected as U.S. President in over a century. The last president with facial hair was Taft in 1913. Before that, there were several presidential pogonophiles (beard lovers). So what happened to the commander-in-chief of beards, mustaches, and mutton chops?

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Some analysts blame Gillette for its push of razors into culture. Others see men’s hair decline as a result of the increase televised presence of political events. While yet other pundits blame an unconscious distrust of beards because many disliked foreign political leaders or dictators wear them. Whatever the case, we say bring back the beard (although admittedly, it may be easier for one candidate over the other this election year).

4. Beards and mustaches have changed each decade to reflect culture and politics. The 40s saw the clean-cut, soldier image. The 50s extended that but allowed for some mustaches. The 60s in the U.S. saw facial hair change into beards because of political revolutionaries such as Fidel Castro and the free-love, free-haired flower children of that era. The hippie movement continued its political and social statement into the 70s with the trend of long-haired and bearded rebellion as social protest. This century, beards have been worn by hipsters and the creative millennial class to show the difference between themselves and the business-oriented establishments.

Extra: See a live video showing how beard styles have changed throughout the years.

5. Beards nearly disappeared during the World Wars because of the number of men enlisted in the military, which in general did not allow beards unless you were a high-ranking officer. On a practical side, gas masks in World War I could not fit a beard, so only a mustache was permitted. Beards were also seen as a hygiene issue. And some World War II soldiers saw beards negatively because of Axis leaders Hitler and Hirohito.

 

However, Navy sailors afforded some liberty at times (possibly because no one sees your handsome stubble in a sub). Rules became more conservative over time though, and one sailor who refused to shave his beard even jumped overboard (he survived). Now that’s dedication to the cause of rugged beardom!

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6. The Handlebar Club of Britain has been meeting for over 70 years. It was formed after the actor and air force pilot Jimmy Edwards notarized the handlebar mustache as an iconic look. The club celebrates the grooming of the handlebar mustache and gives aspiring growers instructions on its site.

how to trim a handlebar mustache

The handlebar is also one of the distinct mustache styles recognized by the American Mustache Institute. While the handlebar and horseshoe mustaches take their names from the shapes, other mustaches reflect their originator (Dali, Fu Man Chu) or representative area (England, Imperial). The American Mustache Institute also supports the rights of facial hair wearers. They sponsor a Million Mustache March to display mustaches and encourage equality for all facially-inclined men.

7. As part of his aim to modernize Russia, Czar Peter the Great shaved his beard and discouraged facial hair. He even instituted an income-based “beard tax” to any man growing a full beard. People who paid the tax received a coin to display their patronage. Eventually, the tax disappeared, even though beards did not.

8. Circuses and sideshows used to exhibit a “bearded lady,” often just a woman in disguise, for the amusement of spectators. But now a British woman, Harnaam Kaurr, is challenging that stereotype by becoming the youngest woman to grow a beard, according to The Guinness Book of World Records. Her medical condition caused her to have the courage to grow out her hair and accept herself. She even modeled in a London fashion show. She hopes to encourage girls and women to empower themselves by accepting their natural body images.

9. The beard oil that helps smooth your stubble isn’t a new thing. Ancient civilizations such as the Hebrews anointed beards with oil as a ceremonial act that honored a leader. The Hebrew Bible describes oil flowing down the beard of the high priest Aaron as a sign of blessing (Psalm 133). The main components would have been from flowers, roots, and trees mixed with a carrier oil base like olive oil. You can even still make your own beard oil using essential oils and coconut or olive oil.

10. You’ve likely heard that your hair will grow back faster and fuller after shaving. However, several scientific studies have disproved this idea. Cutting hair will not make it grow faster. Rather, it just appears that way because the hair is cut at the root, which is dark. Therefore, a shadow of a beard may appear darker or thicker than before it was shaved.

11. No one is totally sure why humans have coarser facial hair in comparison to head hair. Hair growth runs on cycles that differ according to hair type, and sex hormones influence the ability to grow hair; however, the underlying reason for a secondary type of hair is only speculative.

12. Men all over the country are growing mustaches and beards for “Movember.” The Movember Foundation has used November to stage awareness for the treatment of male disorders, such as prostate and testicular cancers, as well as depression. You can support the movement by taking the pledge to grow some hair; then join up with others for a fundraising event to demonstrate the importance of men’s issues. Post pictures of your participation and mustache on social media. And share your story below if you are a courageous survivor of any of these male issues.

13. Looking to save some skin in the summer? A beard may offer protection from the sun. Australian scientists found that facial hair can partially block reception of the UVF rays, which contribute to the risk of skin cancer. The level of reflection depends of the length and thickness of the beard but can it be at least SPF 50, or about twice that of normal sunscreen. However, doctors still caution against prolonged exposure to the sun. If you want extra protection for any skin uncovered by stubble, try a rehydrating UV-blocking formula, such as Kiehls Facial Hair UV Treatment

14. The word “barber” comes from the Latin word barba, meaning beard. Barbers from ancient times were responsible for more than just hair; they were also surgeons too. Barbers let blood to “cure” impurities. (That gives a whole new meaning to your barber’s direction to take “a little off the sides”!)

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Then in the mid-eighteenth century, hair cutters were separated from surgeons. However, barbers got to keep the iconic pole still seen in many barber shops across the country. The stripes on the pole represent blood (red), bandages (white), and veins (blue). So next time you get your hair cut, thank your barber for only cutting your beard.

15. Hair, including facial hair, can grow up to half a millimeter per day. Over a month, that would be about half of an inch on average, plenty enough for a mustache or goatee and a generous addition to an overall bigger beard.

16. Hunters in Midwestern and Northern states may grow beards and refuse to shave them until they have caught their first prey, normally a deer. Plus, who wants to bother with a razor when you’re around only guys in the wild? Hunting camp can sure get hairy though.

17. The heaviest weight lifted by a human beard is 140 pounds according to The Guinness Book of World Records. We’ve heard of the Strong Man Competition, but never a strong beard competition. Gimli from Lord of the Rings would be jealous!

18. The World Beard and Mustache Championship brings together the most serious beard lovers in a huge celebration of manly hair. The competition likely began in 1990 in Germany and is now held twice a year in various locations across continents. It encourages expression of facial hair growth in at least seventeen categories, such as natural goatee, musketeer, Garibaldi beard, and, of course, the famous freestyle beard, which lends itself to creative designs, a la the famous octopus beards. The winners receive bragging rights, and while you may never achieve such an intense degree of beard awesomeness, you can experiment and still style your own.

19. Want a way to be festive and show your creativity? Tap into your artistic side in a uniquely personal way. Colorful “beard baubles” began to show a festive flair at holiday events two season ago. Add to this glitter glare that goes on your hairs and makes you look like the Spirit of Christmas Present. And, if you’re adventurous, you could even try candy canes! Or if you’re out of holiday spirit, flowers in your hair from the hippie movement has come back. Men can now weave soft, brilliantly-hued fresh flowers into their full beards unabashedly in the name of fashion.

Note: You may need help with this. And your boss may have his or her own opinions of it if your try this at work.

As these examples show, the history of facial hair is as diverse as the colors, shapes, and texture of the beards men grow. Each person uses facial hair to express individual identity or important causes. Whatever the reason, mustache and beard wearers and their aficionados unite people in a common bond of amazing hair. Be proud to join them!

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Ms. Thompson is a beard aficionado and lover of all things beard. She is married to a bearded man who is currently working on his yeard; and can't wait to provide her opinions on the process. Her and her husband live on their farm with two rambunctious boys and their dog who hasn't figured out how to leave the livestock alone.