Return of the beard

March 16 2014

The Victorian beard has returned after a century and a quarter. It started to die out c 1890 as a cleaner-cut military look came in.

In the nineteenth century, it was often adopted with a certain maturity. Now it’s worn by young men. Last autumn I reckoned that a quarter of young Greeks, who seemed neither especially fashion-conscious nor religious, had real beards. Was that simply traditionally Greek? Is this an unconscious echo among non-Muslims of the Muslim beard?

The Elizabethans and their Stuart successors had worn goatees. The Hanoverians were clean-shaven. Beards don’t go with wigs.

The modern Victorian beard, when it is Parnell-like, is subtly transgressive.

Mahler in beard phase; first photo looks earlier than second, which was taken in Kassel, where he worked for two years from summer 1883, aged 23-5, when he might have been expected to be clean-shaven:

Gustav Mahler

Gustav Mahler 2

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