Nine reasons Victorians thought men were better with beards
Let's not split hairs about it: the Victorians loved their whiskers. From the "hero beards" of the Crimean War (grown by necessity, kept for status) to the near-mandatory whiskers of many of the age's leading politicians and thinkers, beards were as important an accessory to Victorian men as their hats or pocket watches. As Free Thinking visits a new exhibition devoted to beards at the Florence Nightingale Museum, historian and Radio 3 New Generation Thinker Dr Alun Withey curates nine of the 19th century's most convincing arguments for facial fuzz.
The Crayon Magazine (1859)
Yup. That’s a mighty fine beard all right.
Life is short. There is no time for stubble.
Charles Dickens, Why Shave? 1853. Photograph c.1895 © Sussex PhotoHistory
Like beards themselves, our respect for this gentleman will only grow with the passing years.
Alexander Rowland, The Human Hair, Popularly and Physiologically Considered, 1853. Image c.1890 © Sutcliffe Gallery
This beard is not only a powerful statement of masculinity. It’s also super toasty.
16th-century physician Valerianus, quoted in St James Magazine, 1861. Image from 1895 reproduced courtesy of National Library of Congress
We can’t see those pearly whites, but by jingo you’d better believe they’re all present and correct.
Xerxex, The Folly and Evil of Shaving, 1843
The only thing hiding under THIS beard is a cheeky twinkle.
Moustaches and Beards Prejudicial to their Wearers, 1851
Be honest. Have you ever seen a more virile, energetic or courageous beard?
Curious Remarks on Beards, 1788 (not quite Victorian, but compelling nonetheless)
This beard couldn't NOT have existed. The moustache tips alone are dual arguments for the existence of a higher being.
Parishioner to John Wesley, quoted in The Saturday Magazine, 1839. Image c. late 19th century © Alun Withey
Going straight to heaven. May, in fact, already be God.
Dr Alun Withey is a Wellcome Research Fellow at Exeter University and a Radio 3 New Generation Thinker. He appears on Free Thinking in a programme devoted to examining current and historical attitudes towards masculinity. Listen live or online for 30 days.
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