Evolution of BEARD and relation to the Hipster trend
Written by: Arthur Kerr
What is happening with beards nowadays? Why is everyone so obsessed with them? Is it a trend? Where does this trend come from? Is it going to end soon? To answer to these questions we must analyze what meaning the beard has, and its effects. We have always known by that bearded men seem more virile and vigorous, independently of what each person considers attractive. But why is this?
Biology defines it as a secondary sexual characteristic, which means it plays an important role in sexual selection. The beard starts to grow in puberty, with the first high doses of sexual hormones (testosterone) released by our bodies, signaling sexual maturity and dominance. Psychologically talking, a bearded man seems to be more sexually developed than clean-shaven ones; if there is more facial hair, there are higher levels of testosterone, and the man is better developed sexually.
Throughout history bearded man have always been considered stronger, wiser, more valiant and more mature. For each culture the beard had its own meanings, and it is surprisingly how different these were. I am now going to show you the main meaning of the beard through history.
Ancient Greece: they typically had a long beard, so long that sometimes it was even curled with their tongs, with the upper lip shaved. It was a badge of virility, their sign of manhood, and it even had sanctified meanings in the Homeric epics. They used to punish cowards by shaving their beards publicly, as it was considered despised not to have a beard. The fact is that the main visual difference between a man and a woman, is facial hair. If a man was seen without facial hair, he was considered woman-like.
But then the problems came: during battle beards were grabbed in hand to hand combats. So Alexander III of Macedon, known as Alexander the Great (Alejandro Magno), ordered his soldiers to shave off their beards.
Ancient Rome: during their early history beards were not shaved off by the Romans. Late in 5th century, Scipio Africanus (a general in the second Punic war, best known for defeating Hannibal), was one of the first Romans to shave his chin. It was also a sign of being Roman and not Greek. The first time a man was able to shave was
considered very important. It was even cause for a festival, the beginning of their manhood. It was a widespread practice among youngsters to rub olive oil on their faces, in the hope of growing a thick beard. Nowadays we know that olive oil is marvelous for hair health, and I personally use it every week! (In Spain olive oil is famous…)
Germanic tribes: men in Ireland and Scotland typically grew a full beard, and they were not allowed to shave themselves until they had slain their first enemy. It was seen as dishonorable for a Gaelic man to have no facial hair. They used to have the greatest and noblest beards in history: German beards were famous. In the Roman frontiers, the Romans were both fascinated and afraid of German beards!
During the Middle Ages a beard displayed a knight’s virility and honor. The Spanish knight El Cid is described in The Lay of the Cid as “the one with the flowery beard”. Holding somebody else’s beard was a serious offense that had to be righted in a duel.
Then in the Modern Age, and the Contemporary Age, and even now, the beard has had a lot of ups and downs, but that will be another article!
Now we are going to see where this hipster trend comes from, and why the beard seems to be so closely related to it. We are not completely sure where the word “hipster” comes from, but there are several theories. I’m going to show you my favorite one, which is also, in my opinion, the most believable.
In the beginning of jazz, there was a word which was used to describe people “in the know” about this emerging vibrating black culture which was revolving jazz: “HEP” . The followers of this upcoming subculture were the hepcats. This term evolved in the late 30s and was replaced by “hip” due to the rise of swing, hot jazz and bebop, and then it became “hipster”. Due to the increased popularity of jazz in the late 40s, the white youngsters were trying to follow this new lifestyle. They began to deal with African-American people for their music, rejecting the mainstream trends. So with an open mind, they accepted the racial diversity, sexual freedom, and well…drugs. But these white teenagers, did sometimes come from good families, middle class society. So they tried not to give an image of themselves as the rich people they were, but a lower class social image instead. The first white considered hipster was Bing Crosby.
Nowadays the word hipster makes an image pop into our heads: a preppy riding a bike that looks like a hobo. The term hipster has fallen into terrible misuse. There is a biologist in The University of Western Australia that explains the hipster relation with beards from an evolutionary point of view. It states that the need to grow a thicker beard comes from sexual necessity. With the highly developed communication we have thanks to technology, men need to differentiate themselves from others, with the intention of catching more attention from women. In my opinion, there is a connection, but I do not think this is the main reason.
The modern hipster arises from the need of youngsters to separate from commercial trends. If you think about it, in the 2000s commercial music emerged, also big clothing companies, and people who didn’t feel identified with this started to stay in the shadow. A couple of years ago, in any occidental European city, there were the same clothing stores and that’s the reason for hipster clothing. Then it exploded, the indies and hipsters stepped into the light, with new ways of dressing, not following trends, but using the old-fashioned as the new fashion. Giving an image of careless style, wearing clothes from markets, and unknown stores.
But the truth is that these styles are more carefully created than we think. The idea was not to follow the mass. Not to be like everyone, here comes the beard. Like the beat generation: writers who wanted to seem like poor working people, wearing white t-shirts and normal Levi’s jeans with long beards.
In conclusion: we have experienced the same evolution as the jazz lovers did. Not to follow the mass ideas, being different. Give an appearance of not self-cared but truly being dedicated to our image. The beard is our most effective sign, the idea of homelessness, but so well cared for and treated, that combining it with the appropriate outfit, we become hipsters. This leads us to the modern bearded people, who take care by using beardilizer products, which are great. Thanks to the hipster movement the bearded men are more accepted into society. It may seem that having beard is a trend, but it’s not, it’s part of us, who we are, and how we want to be seen. Having a thick beard is not possible for all of us, so growing it is a way of making yourself difference, unique, and marvelous.
Long life to the bearded.
Written by: Arthur Kerr
Admin notes: I would like to say a BIG THANK YOU to Arthur for writing this article. Very interesting read and very well written. Please leave a comment below if you have any input on this article, and please share with your friends and family!