Growing A Beard Was Once Medical Advice
Before the Victorian era of the mid-1800s, a bearded man was not a common sight. The enlightened man was one with a clean shaven face-beards were reserved for the rebellious. Around the 1850s, doctors began prescribing beards for men to prevent illness. The idea was that beards acted as a sort of air filter that "capture the impurities before they could get inside the body." However, the opposite may be the truth. A study in Behavioral Ecology says that "hair on the face and body are potential localized breeding sites for disease-carrying ectoparasites." Whether the beard seemed to prevent illness or not in the Victorian era, it at least sparked a new trend in facial hair.
from Gresham College
Key Facts In This Video
In the early decades of the 19th century, a man with a clean shaven face was the norm. (0:52)
Up until the Victorian era, beards on men were seen as symbols of physical and cultural unconventionality. (2:32)
According to Elizabethan legend, there were people who would calibrate the strength of villains by looking at the length of their beards. (7:10)