Hey folks, welcome back to the good ol’ blog! Today’s tidbit about me is: my facial-hair status constantly changes between “clean shaven” and “light beard” because it takes a while for the various annoyances of a full beard to overcome the greater annoyance of shaving.
My last post was on the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad heat, and the post before that dealt with the first part of the Seven Days battles. But there’s a subject I have not yet touched on: one that covered the length and breadth of the nation, and is critical to our understanding of what it meant to truly fight in the Civil War. I’m speaking, of course, about beards. Let’s trace the history of beards, shall we?
The early civilizations of man were almost entirely bearded. The (arguably) greatest ancient civilization, the Romans, started off with beards during the early part of their existence. However, as time wore on, the Romans started shaving their beards to distinguish themselves from their Greek rivals. This happened around 300 BC. From then on out, Romans sliced their beards right off, while the barbarian tribes of Europe kept their beards safe.
Beards remained popular during the Dark and Middle Ages, until roughly the 1400s. Then, many men adopted the clean shaven look of ancient Rome, a trend noticeable if one examines the rulers of the day. In fact, examining the facial hair of a nation’s leader is a good way to gauge the popularity of facial air in that area. For example, facial hair was not popular during the time of Henry V of England, who reigned during the first quarter of the 15th century (the 1400s) with nary a hair on his face.
Beards returned in strength during the 1500s but the clean shaven look took hold again in the early 1600s. The clean shaved style stayed overwhelmingly popular throughout the Enlightenment period up until the late 1840s and early 1850s, when beards once again returned. By the time of the Civil War, America was full of glorious, manly beards just waiting to be photographed. Here’s a big comparison-view of select Civil War Generals rocking their beards both during the war and for a great deal of time afterwards.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on personal preference,) beards only lasted till about 1920. After World War I, the clean shaved look returned to stay. While many men of course had beards during the clean-shaven times, and some (few) men were clean shaven during the bearded times, overall the ebb and flow of facial hair fashion created distinct periods of history where the noticeable majority of people were either bearded or clean shaven. The Civil War happened during the early part of a fearsome Victorian beard-fad, and we cannot forget that each of our ancestors who made the ultimate sacrifice in that war did so with courage in their heart and a manly beard on their face.
Well, that about does it for today, folks. Tune in next time for another Civil War related topic!