Beard. The appearance of the beard, whiskers, and moustache is usually the distinctive sign of the advent of manhood, though it occasionally occurs in women, especially with advancing age and (it is said) in those of dark complexion. The growth of the beard varies greatly in different individuals, still more in different races. It is especially conspicuous in Semitic peoples, and in the Slavonic and Keltic divisions of the Aryan race; while some savage races - the Indians of North America, for instance - are almost beardless. The beard is carefully cultivated by some Eastern nations, Turks, Arabs, and Persians, and especially by Mahometans, and often dyed red with henna, and its removal is regarded as a degradation. Sometimes, however, it is shaved in time of mourning, as in ancient Greece. The ancient Egyptians, however, reversing the contemporary practice in this as in other matters, shaved as a rule and let their beards grow during mourning, though they sometimes wore false beards, differing according to the rank of the wearer. The Assyrian sculptures show long beards. Leviticus xix. 27 forbids trimming the corners of the beard (cf. Ezek. v. 1).
The ancient Greeks usually wore beards; the Homeric heroes are bearded; but Alexander the Great is said to have compelled his Macedonians to shave, saying "that there was no better hold in battle than a beard." The1 philosophers of later times, however, always wore their beards as a kind of professional badge. Shaving was introduced into Rome about 300 B.C., and it is said Scipio Africanus (about 200 B.C.) was the first Roman who shaved daily. The first hair shaved off by the young man was commonly offered to a god. Shaving was general, at least in good society, till Hadrian's time (117 A.D.), though we occasionally hear of "daintily trimmed beards" as a mark of foppery (as in Cicero's letters), and a long untrimmed beard was considered as a sign of slovenliness and squalor. The Emperor Hadrian wore a beard, it is said, to conceal scars on his face; and either from this, or as part of the growth of Oriental practices in Rome, beards were worn thenceforth till the time of Constantine. Under Charles the Great the nobles usually shaved, but beards were worn from the tenth to the twelfth century. Shaving was then generally practised throughout the Middle Ages; the Normans introduced it into Britain, but beards were occasionally worn by the higher classes, as by Edward III. Henry I. had to shave his beard as a penance. With Elizabeth's reign beards became common and often fantastic in form. Under Charles I. and Charles II. the "Vandyke" peaked beard and moustache were worn, familiar from the portraits of these kings; but afterwards shaving became common all over Europe until the present century was well advanced. In France, under Louis XIV. it was worn for a time, and powdered; but as the powder would not stay on, it became usual to shave the face closely, except that officers were allowed to wear moustaches - a privilege reserved under the First Empire for veterans only. Foreign military service has been the chief agent in restoring the practice of wearing the beard in England and France. In the former it dates from the subjugation of Algeria (1830), though officials and members of the Bar are still closely shaven; in the latter from the Crimean war, though Anglo-Indians wore it earlier. The value of the beard as a protection against throat complaints is now very generally insisted on. There is much greater diversity of practice in this matter of late years. The Roman Catholic priests are shaven, the Greek priests bearded; in the Anglican Church there has been a considerable increase of late years among the clergy who wear beards, though Bishop Ryle (1881) introduced it as an innovation on the Episcopal bench.
Of different styles of wearing the beard in the present century the "Imperial" (moustache and chin, tuft) became fashionable under Napoleon III.; and the "goatee" is supposed to be specially American. In the first half of this century beards being uncommon were often regarded as betokening an eccentric and revolutionary type of mind (the view is even supported by a passage in one of Mr. Herbert Spencer's Essays), and were the objects of special attention by the police of some Continental countries.