Your Soul Patch Ain’t Got Soul

billy ray cyrus

Seriously… why is that little dab of hair called a soul patch anyway?  I’ve just finished trying to research this and I can’t find any satifactory etymology of the phrase anywhere.  Here’s what I have been able to gather:

  • “Soul Patch” was first included  in the Miriam Webster dictionary in 1991
  • According to a source on the Wikipedia entry, jazz trumpeters of the 1950s and 1960s grew them for increased mouthpiece comfort.
  • Also according to Wikipedia, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, called the first soul patch he saw a “poor, frustrated beard.”

So my theory on the history of the soul patch goes like this.  It was the height of the 1950s jazz movement.  African-American jazz musicians were getting freaky and white counterculture ate it up.  They felt so cool and progressive hanging out at the club and grooving on the new sounds that were being made up on the spot.  In the midst of that jazz-induced euphoria, these kids noticed their idols wearing this little patch of hair under their bottom lip, not knowing what reason it served.  In an effort to be as cool as the cats on the stage, the guys that were caught up in the scene grew out a little patch to match… and the soul patch was introduced to the non-musicians of America.

That still doesn’t explain why it’s called a “soul” patch.  Soul music isn’t really an offspring of jazz.  Instead, it grew from African-American gospel crossed with rhythm-and-blues (R&B).  And while R&B and jazz can both claim the blues as a parent, it’s hard to detect any resemblance between the siblings.  An audible connection is even less present between soul music and its uncle jazz.  So, there’s just no soul in a soul patch.  I’m going to start calling it a “jazz patch.”  You should too.

Real soul music was made by guys with real beards.  Evidence:

Marvin Gaye?

Marvin Gaye beard

Barry White?

barry white beard

Isaac Hayes?

isaac hayes beard

There you have it.  There is simply no denying the soulfulness of the full beard.  You may think that little spot of hair under your lip gives you soul, but I’m pretty sure that the ladies aren’t feeling it.  You want to see a woman feel the effects of a full soul beard?  Play “Let’s Get It On” at your next house party.  I guarantee that at least one of the girls in attendance will swoon and start turning her mind toward certain things…

You want to look like you’re a lovin’ man?  Fill in the rest of your beard around that “poor, frustrated” jazz patch.


7 comments

  1. My dad, who passed away when I was 13, always wore a sole patch.So when I see a guy with a Stetson hat, Stacy Adam shoes,n a sole patch, I am immediately taken to a happy place as I am reminded of my dad who was definitely a MAN’s man.

  2. I have a full beard and when my barber trims it. I notice each time that the mustache extends longer into the beard and the area where the soulpatch is is left longer, so there is a tuft of longer hair. Is this the proper way to trim a full beard? Not complaining, I like it.

  3. is it acceptable to grow full beard without “soul patch”. I hate that bit of hair just below lower lip. i shave too about one inch down from lip. is this odd or not?

    1. In my opinion, I’d have to say that the under-lip area is pretty key to having a traditional beard. However, it’s your face, so feel free to innovate! Just be sure to give your new beard style an awesome name, like “The Zombie.” (You see, your beard is lacking a “soul” patch… hence the name.)

      1. For some reason, the gods decided to grant me a beard, with as you describe it, ‘no soul’. I have an almost perfectly hairless square below my bottom lip, that is as wide as my mouth and extends to about midway on my chin.

        It is most unusual. And now, thanks to a collaborative effort between the mysterious ‘will’ and the great Coach Adam, back in the space-year 2010, my beard finally has a name; The Zombeard…

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