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Why Americans Hate Facial Hair

Why Americans Hated Facial Hair — Until Now!

Beards have gone in and out fashion since ancient Greece. Peter I of Russia ordered all officials to shave their beards, and England's Henry the VIII imposed a tax on beards while growing one himself.

For the last 30 years, we've seen goatees and mutton chops and other styles I can't begin to name, but the full-on beard has been all but absent. It belongs to the mythical life of leisurely lit professors and, well, hipsters. Same thing. Now, with Jon Hamm and Robert Pattinson, the beard has gone mainstream. Why now? And where has it been?

Anthropologist Desmond Morris says shaving brings three advantages. First, it makes men look younger; second, it makes them appear friendlier; and third, it makes them appear cleaner.

I'm stuck on the cleanliness. The only thing Americans hate more than dirt is an unclean restroom. Just in case I'm wrong, here are four reasons beards have historically made Americans bristle.

  • Communists: If there's one thing communists have in common — besides everything — it's facial hair. From Karl Marx to Fidel Castro, the beard says "I don't buy razors."
  • Beatniks: Beards fell out of fashion after World War I. Soldiers shaved out of necessity — they needed to wear gas masks — but when the war was glorified by Hollywood, so were clean-shaven soldiers. Men remained smooth-faced for most of the 20th century; at least until the beatniks got subversive and stubbly in the early '60s.

Get the other two after the jump.

  • Hippies: Associated with rebellion, counterculture, and dissent, the beard really came of age in the '60s. They went from virtually nonexistent in 1960 to ubiquitous by the '70s.
  • Politicians: Facial hair is nowhere in government. William Howard Taft, who was in office from 1909 to 1913, was the last president to sport a beard. In the '80s, a congressman threatened not to shave until President Reagan balanced the budget, showing just how undesirable beards had grown.

Really though, like everything else, it's got to be the economy. We may be at the tail end of the recession, but nothing says "I don't have a job" like "I'm not going to shave." And that catches on!

Image Source: Getty
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Join The Conversation
thisbulimicwar thisbulimicwar 5 years
i love facial hair, beards specifically. my bf has one and has had one for at least 3 years now(and hes been in his full time career for 5 yrs now)
Lyv Lyv 6 years
I think mega-beards /might/ look ok on men above fourty, but young guys barely out of their teenage years sporting the Fidel look is just wrong. And not great for making out, either.
juliafofulia juliafofulia 6 years
I think that more men should have beards. It is just so manly to me.
oohsexypenguin oohsexypenguin 6 years
My husband sports a beard most of the time. Before him I was pretty anti-facial hair, but what can I say. He converted me. :)
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 6 years
I like beards, but cmon there are better beards than Robert Yuckison!!!!!
snarkypants snarkypants 6 years
um, his name was william howard taft.
staple-salad staple-salad 6 years
Reminds me of the article "Body Ritual Among the Nacirema" http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Body_Ritual_among_the_Nacirema
mamasitamalita mamasitamalita 6 years
I still don't like beards..
mamasitamalita mamasitamalita 6 years
I still don't like beards..
Yogaforlife Yogaforlife 6 years
My dad has always had a full on beard. I hated it growing up, when he would give me a kiss on the forehead or cheek, it itched and scratched.
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