It’s that time of year again where your co-worker comes into the office and you cock your head to the side wondering if they’ve always had that moustache. People around the world will be growing their facial hair in honour of No-Shave November (also called Movember), and some lean into the challenge with true panache and flair. This made me think about some of the phenomenal beards and moustaches that have been recorded through art history.
Robert Gordon of Straloch (1580–1661) by Charles Whyt (active 1701–1715). Photo credit:
Hubert de Gotham Parker-Jervis (1859–1894) by William Graham Simpson (b.1855). Photo credit: Staffordshire Archives & Heritage, CC BY-NC-SA via GIPHY
For most of the eighteenth and the early part of the nineteenth centuries, facial hair went out of fashion and the 1834 book, The Toilette of Health, indicates that beards were seen to be less refined than a clean-shaven face. This shifted towards the middle of the nineteenth century when Victorians began to draw connections between beards and masculinity. Men started growing out their whiskers, subjecting themselves to the mercy of the barber to carve out some truly fantastic facial hair.
In this story, I’ll take a look at a few examples of inspirational beard styles. If the hirsute portraiture leaves you envious, you can give yourself an art historical beard by searching for ‘Art UK’ in Instagram Stories and applying one of our animated beard GIF stickers.
The French Fork
With this style of beard, the wearer grows a full beard but removes a triangle creating two points. It is said to be so named because of its resemblance to the old French style of the eating utensil.
You can’t make a list about facial hair without including mutton chops – a staple in nineteenth-century beard fashion. There are variations on the style, but typically it involves a moustache that connects with sideburns, or a beard with a clean-shaven chin. As an interesting related fact, sideburns are said to have gotten their name from the American Civil War General Ambrose Burnside, who wore his hair in that fashion.
The Van Dyck
This beard name is actually art historical in nature, so that’s a bonus! It’s named after seventeenth-century Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck and typically consists of a moustache and goatee with clean-shaven cheeks. This can have variations as to whether the two connect, or
The English and Handlebar moustaches
This fantastic linear lip ornament is a variation of ‘tache from the Imperial moustache family. These were usually very groomed and required wax to maintain their shape. They had a period of popularity across Europe and the United States, with some notable wearers of the Imperial style including Archduke Franz Ferdinand and US President Theodore Roosevelt. The handlebar is a cousin of the English and Imperial moustaches.
There’s a wealth of good beards in art history, but there are simply too many fashions to feature in one story. The good news is that you can merrily entertain yourself for minutes on end by doing a search for beards and moustaches on Art UK. Don’t forget to give yourself an art history beard on Instagram and tag us at @artukdotorg so we can admire those ‘taches!
Ferren Gipson, Social Media Marketer at Art UK