In 3000 BCE to 1580 BCE the highest-ranking Egyptians would dye their beards a reddish brown with henna and weave in some gold thread. Some also wore a false beard known as a postiche that was made of metal. This was held onto the face by a ribbon.
Iranian’s also had a penchant for long, flowing beards. Warriors even adorned their beards with jewelry!
The Greeks saw the beard as a sign of virility; in the Homeric epics it had almost sacred significance; if you wanted to make a request or plea you did this by touching the beard of the person to whom you were speaking. It was only shaven as a sign of mourning. In the Middle Ages, it was considered an insult to grab someone by the beard and the only way to settle such an offence was a duel!
During these times if you had a beard you were thought to be a philosopher, as a beard was considered to be the distinguishing feature of the thinking classes.
In India, long beards were a symbol of dignity and of wisdom and they groomed and treated them with great reverence. One form of punishment for offences such as adultery was to have the beard of the offending parties publicly cut off. So highly regarded were beards, they could be pledged in payment of a debt.
The Mesopotamians really took a tremendous amount of pride in their beards. They would oil them regularly and complete the look by using tongs to create very elaborate ringlets and curls, as did the Greeks.
However, Alexander the Great (336–323BC) saw bearded soldiers as a liability and insisted that all of his warriors were clean shaven. He realised that in hand to hand combat, their beards would be something for the enemy to hold onto with one hand while thrusting a sword between their ribs with another, a calamity he clearly wanted to avoid!
The popularity of beards declined in the 20th century and
Culture and faith play a huge role in deciding whether or not a beard is significant. If you have decided to wear a beard or stay clean shaven, we’d love to hear your reasons why!
The beard has different meanings among the various religious groups. In Christianity, very broadly speaking, the beard isn’t necessarily thought of as having any significance, although
Rastafarians wear beards in conformity with instructions given in the Bible, such as Leviticus 21:5: “They shall not make any baldness on their heads, nor shave off the edges of their beards, nor make any cuts in their flesh.”
In Islam, allowing the beard to grow and trimming the moustache is ruled as mandatory according to the Sunnah in Sunni Islam by consensus and is considered of the fitra i.e. the way
Sikhs consider the beard to be part of the nobility and dignity of their manhood. They also refrain from cutting their hair and beards out of respect for the perfection of the God-given form.