Historically speaking beards have always been awesome. Sure some guys have the chiseled jaw that should not be hidden by a beard but if they do, they still look awesome!
In the first days of mankind walking upright, beards were worn because they were simply there. The benefits that they gave to men were immeasurable. Warmth for the more sensitive skin of the face in the winter months and colder climates. This also meant that during the summer months and in the warmer climates, beards heled protect the skin from the sun’s rays. (Horvatin) What should be considered in all of this is that beards have a function apart from helping men look rugged or cool. That’s just the byproduct.
We know beards have always been around and though some eras throughout history saw a decline in bearded men, beards are historically a staple of society. From ancient civilizations dying their beards or adorning them with jewelry (Hardy), having a beard is some work.
What it means to grow a beard begins with deciding that the initial itching and scruffiness is worth it. Let’s be honest here, the scruffiness that Hollywood says is handsome really looks terrible on most of us. However, get past those first couple of weeks and the beard will begin to take its awesome shape. That is where ore of the work comes in. The benefits that were discovered by the first humans still hold true today but like them, we have to care for these magnificent beards so they will care for us.
Since beards for many ancient cultures were a sign of virility, the better and thicker it looked, the better the man seemed. Of course, this meant that they were healthy because you can’t have a thick and healthy beard unless you have the right nutrients. Oils were discovered in ancient times as a way to help men and women care for their hair. Ancient Egypt used castor and almond oils for hair and skin care. (Eight Amazing Historical Hair Care Facts) One is important to remember is that hair care is also skin care. When we grow out our beards Vitamin E is taken from the skin and redirected to the beard. Therefore, adding Vitamin E rich oils to the beard grooming routine helps to keep need Vitamin E in the skin.
In Edo Japan and medieval Europe beards were a sign of masculinity and experience. (Horvatin). This idea continued until later in the years and until the 19th and 20th centuries when mustaches began to be more popular. While the military allowed beards for many years, the risk of it being pulled meant that it fell out of favor around the turn of the 20th century. Others in the political arena of the late 19th century saw beards as a sign that a candidate had something to hide. The days of Grant, Hayes Garfield and Lincoln were gone. Damn those were some mighty fine beards.
The invention of lye soap saw more harm than good come to our beards and hair. Lye is sodium hydroxide and it is the key ingredient of hot process soap. It is also caustic, meaning it burns and will damage hair and skin. Think that one scene in Fight Club. You know the scene. Lye needs dilution so it won’t burn and yet it is the main ingredient in soap. Other sulfates have been added in our body washes and soaps over the years. Some might not be as caustic but natural is always better. That’s what our grandfathers and their grandfathers knew.
Some have argued that beards are a relic of the old world and with the growth of Viking influenced culture that might not be far from the truth. But isn’t that a good thing? Sure beards were worn by our ancestors but for good reason. Why shy away from something that works? However, we are now experiencing a bearded renaissance. That means we have to be ready to care for our wonderful and protective facial hair. Oils, butters and balms help to protect our beards while giving them a healthy and stylish appearance. While growing a beard can seem daunting and there is a time commitment, remember that a healthy and good looking beard will do wonders for you!
Hardy, James. A Short History of Beard Styles
Horvatin, Domen. The History of Beards: Facial Hair Throughout The Ages