Beards, Beaus and Battles

Beards may not necessarily enhance attractiveness, but in general symbolise masculinity, virility and physical strength.

Love them or hate them, but beards are still very trendy. Various studies have been conducted to explore the role human beard plays intra-sexually as a signal of age, social status, and aggressiveness.

As for whether having a beard enhances attractiveness, the jury will still be out for a long time on this one. Although beards’ precise significance and importance varied from one culture to another across centuries, beards in general symbolise masculinity, virility and physical strength. In the words of William Shakespeare: “What should I do with him [a husband that hath no beard]? Dress him up in my apparel, and make him my waiting gentlewoman? He that hath a beard is more than a youth; and he that hath no beard is less than a man.”

Bearded Spanish conquistadors in in the 1520’s noticed that the natives in Latin America had no beard and that they actually feared bearded men. One of them cut the hair of some of his younger soldiers, that did not have beard yet, and glued it on to their cheeks. This trick gave them a psychological advantage which apparently affected the course of the battle.

One of the tales that illustrate the importance of a beard as a symbol of manliness and valour in war is one by Juan de Timoneda, where the commander dismissed young beardless soldiers on the basis that, to him, a beard was a symbol of bravery and that beardless soldiers would not make the impression required in a battle. One of these soldiers, wanting to prove that there was no connection between a beard and valour, asked how much beard would be required to be considered a good soldier. The commander said there would have to be enough beard to be able to stick a comb in it so that the comb would stay put. The beardless soldier then took out his comb and stuck the teeth so deep into his skin that it did not fall out. The commander was so impressed that, besides employing him, he took him on as his personal aide.

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