Historian Alun Withey argues that shaving is about more than fashion and that beards can shed light things from medicine to the military.
Jeremy Paxman made headlines when he grew a beard, taking his place alongside actors Jake Gyllenhaal and George Clooney, Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst, folk-rocker Marcus Mumford and hipster model Johnny Harrington.
Historian Alun Withey from Exeter University says beards can shed light on a whole range of things from medicine to the military. Pogonotomy - or the art of shaving - is about more than fashion.
Recorded in front of an audience at BBC Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival of Ideas at Sage, Gateshead. New Generation Thinkers is a scheme run by BBC Radio 3 and the AHRC to find the brightest academic minds with the potential to turn their ideas into broadcasts.
All the discussions and essays from the Free Thinking festival are available as Radio 3 Arts and Ideas downloads.
Producer: Georgia Catt.