The Philosophy of Beards

Peak Beard

They say we hit 'peak beard' last year, but anecdotal evidence tells me that men who sport a growth are not going to give it up on the mere say-so of fashion writers.

If you wear a beard, and it suits you, you hang on to it. Some men just look better with beards. It will look even better as you get older. Look after it though. First Olympian can help with this.

And talk to your beard. They're like plants, science tells us. They grow better if they're happy, and they're happier if you talk to them. I'm sure they'd like to learn more about The Philosophy of Beards [Amazon].

The Gowing Defence

The Philosophy of Beards is by eccentric Victorian writer Thomas S. Gowing, and re-published by the British Library. Gowing uses his book to present a manifesto, nay polemic (it was adapted from a lecture), for the wearing of a beard as a projection of manly virtues. Even then the beard was under attack from the impulses of fashion: 'O Fashion! What strange vagaries playest thou with the sons and daughters of men! What is there so lovely, that thou canst not, with a word, transform into an object of disgust and abhorrence?' We know what he would think about 'peak beard'.

Take it away Mr. Gowing:

'Though there are individual exceptions, the absence of Beard is usually a sign of physical and moral weakness.'

'Take two drawings of the head of a lion, one with and the other without the mane. You will see how much of the majesty of the king of the woods, as well as that of the lord of the earth, dwells in this free-flowing appendage.'

'With every attempt at freedom on the Continent the beard re-appears. Greek freedom and Greek Beards expired together.'

Beard-lovers will also be pleased to know that the book contains illustrations of great beards from history.


  1. According to a great little essay by C. Northcote Parkinson "the clean-shaven face is associated with...periods of dominance" while the "beard has characterised periods of uncertainty". Worse, the beard has been associated with bad architecture (1858-1908 with a slight recovery in 1890) while clean chins with great architecture (1650-1850). Worse again, beards gave us "furniture and interior decoration [that] reached a climax of inconvenience, ugliness and bulk." Chapter 9, 'Barbarity' from The Law of Delay, John Murray, 1970 (with illustrations by Osbert Lancaster)

    1. The flip side. Parkinson's Beard Law. Thanks Benedict. Perhaps a fine set of mutton chop whiskers will provide us with balance.


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