‘Beard History’ Category Archives
by Coach Adam in Beard Education, Beard History
I recently received this correspondence in my Beard Coach inbox:
My beard is not quite to that length that I can try yet, but it is fairly straight
and scraggly especially the ends. What effect will a curling iron have on coarser
hair? I am wondering if it would look OK?
Good question! I say we start by turning to the history books for our answer. Here’s a nice image of an Akkadian sculpture of Sargon, their greatest ruler.
Do you know your ancient history? We’re talking about a culture that can claim title to establishing the first empire ever! This beard style was not limited to the Akkadians, though. You can find similar beard images from many early Mesopotamian cultures, such as the Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Arameans, and the Medians (pre-Persians).
If you look closely at the image above or many other ancient sculptures, you can see that the subject’s beard appears to be in ringlets. One could hypothesize that it was easier to sculpt a curly beard, but I can’t reason that this was truly the case. How hard would it have been to sculpt a straight beard? Wouldn’t chiseling out ringlets be much more difficult than carving out straight textures? Plus, look at the head hair of the sculpture above. No detail whatsoever despite the fact that the majority of ancient Mesopotamians probably had curly hair. Why only sculpt the beard as curled? Because a man’s beard was purposefully curled, and because his beard was a more important cultural icon than the hair of the head.
There exists further proof that ancient men did indeed curl their beards. Here’s an image of a set of ancient Egyptian bronze curling tongs.
Those things probably curled many a beard in their day. Note the sharpened blade at the bottom. Clearly this artifact was used to trim hair and also curl it when necessary. A brilliant 2-in-1 device.
Ancient men curled, oiled, and perfumed their beards for centuries. Many even braided theirs with gold fibers for festivals. A man’s beard was something to be adorned and reveled in at special times of the year – much like the Christmas trees of the current Western holiday season.
This beard-celebrating tradition continued well into the peak of Greek culture. The Greeks used heated tongs to curl their beards in the style illustrated below.
Sadly, the culture of long curled beards ended when Alexander the Great ordered that his soldiers be clean-shaven so that enemy soldiers would have fewer things to grab onto during battle. Apparently this idea was valid seeing as how he conquered pretty much the entire known world at the time. Too bad his soldiers looked like little boys.
Anyway, to directly answer the question, hell yes men can curl their beards! In fact it may be time for all of us to start taking care and carefully styling our beards again. I feel the beard gaining in popularity with mainstream people these days. It’s time for we innovators to take the next step. Shall we start to curl our beards? Maybe perfume them? Or even dust them with gold powder as our ancient bearded brethren did?
by Coach Adam in Beard History
If you don’t already recognize the man above, this is Hans Langseth, who grew the longest beard ever recorded at 18 feet 6 inches long. The photo above was taken when he was 66 years old in 1912. Hans lived a pretty normal farming life for the time outside of the fact he had a ginormous beard. He passed away in 1927.
But what became of his beard???
I had never given the matter even the briefest thought, until my wife forwarded me this picture…
The photo’s caption read:
National Museum of Natural History physical anthropologists Lucille St. Hoyme (1924-2001), J. Lawrence Angel (1915-1986), and Thomas Dale Stewart (1901-1997) hold a seventeen and one half foot long beard found in a North Dakota attic.
What? Found in a North Dakota attic? At 17.5 feet, this pretty much had to be Langseth’s beard, but why would it’s magnificence be abandoned in an attic in North Dakota? Maybe this story is too far fetched to be true…
A quick Googling turned up HansLangseth.com which provided the answers I was searching for.
A misconception is that his beard was only 17.5 feet long. When he passed away, his family (probably son Bill, to the displeasure of the other children) cut it, leaving about 12 inches of it on him when he was buried. The part that was removed was eventually given to the Smithsonian Institute where it was displayed to the public.
Ah ha! So the glorious beard of King Whiskers did indeed find its resting place in the Smithsonian! Although it may not have been “given” to the Smithsonian depending on whose story you believe. The North Dakota reference holds up, as Hans died in Barney, ND.
Thanks be to Bill Langseth (probably) for having the foresight to avoid allowing this astounding relic to be buried forever. You were the child who knew best. Thanks for taking all the crap from your siblings about cutting your dead dad’s beard off.
by Coach Adam in Beard Entertainment, Beard History, Celebrity Beards
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:
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.
by Coach Adam in Beard History
The gods of the beard were smiling on me today, my friends. I had one of those experiences that makes me thankful for the easy access to the hoards of information that the Internet provides. I present to you a primary source directly from the waning of the last heyday of the beard.
When the author of the editorial below sat down at his desk next to his coal stove, probably in a three-piece woolen suit, pen in hand, to write his beard story, he surely dreamt of the immense readership he would reach by writing to the New York Times. Well, dear Author, your passionate tale of the rise and fall of your beard will now be seen by untold millions. They will all celebrate the passion with which you eschewed the mainstream shaving society. They will all mourn your beard’s tragic demise. And my hope as Beard Coach is that they will find inspiration, not only in your bold leap into beardedness, but the pervasive sadness that fills the words describing your defeat.
Click the article below to read this true 19th century beard epic…