It’s odd how little things like facial hair can play such a large part in our society. November has become “No-Shave-November;” clothing, duct tape, and phone covers are donned in mustaches; everyone seems to take a side—clean shaven or grizzly? Some men are even shelling out eight thousand dollars for hair transplants that fill in patchy beards.
How did we get this way? Christopher Oldstone-Moore, a history professor at Wright State University, wanted to find out. In Of Beards and Men, Oldstone-Moore takes the reader through the evolution of facial hair, from ancient civilization to the present. Have beards always been associated with masculinity? Why is Jesus often portrayed as having a beard? Where did Stalin and Hitler get the ideas of their almost-patented mustaches?
Like other microhistories, Of Beards and Men is not just an insight into facial hair—it’s a unique lens through which we see the evolution of society. As Oldstone-Moore puts it, “To a surprising degree, we find, the history of men is written on their faces.” Though the past is worth studying in its own right, looking back on the influence and connotations of facial hair gives us an idea of where we’re headed. Will beards become more accepted in the workplace? Will facial hair continue to symbolize masculinity, or is the statement changing?
The book is written in a witty, laid-back manner that is both informative and entertaining; any reader who picks this up will have a new found respect for the beard.
Thanks for reading. –Autumn