Beards: An Unshaved History
Throughout recorded history, beards and facial hair have consistently gone in and out of fashion, based on the local style at the time.
Currently, beards are at a peak of recent popularity, as exemplified by the bushy-faced World Series champion Boston Red Sox, actors such as Ben Affleck and George Clooney, and bands like Mumford and Sons. Not since the 1970s, when the Beatles, Jim Morrison and other rock stars let their beards grow as part of the hippie era, has facial hair been as prominent in Western culture.
An impressive new coffee table book, "Beards: An Unshaven History," by Kevin Clarke, chronicles the trends in facial hair over the past 2,000 years. While not a scientific study, this enjoyable and very readable photo collection is a fairly comprehensive tome tracing beard styles over the decades, as worn by the Greeks, Romans and Assyrians, as well as by popes, kings, kaisers, rabbis and presidents.
History fans will enjoy seeing the beards of Jesus, Henry the 8th, Abraham Lincoln, Vincent van Gogh and Walt Whitman, while pop culture aficionados will appreciate the inclusion of modern bearded celebrities such as George Michael, Hugh Jackman, Tom Selleck and the Village People.
The 250-page book contains a wealth of full-color photos and illustrations of facial hair through the ages, as well as much information about the place beards have played in fashion and culture in the modern era. Clarke includes a wide variety of facts about the density of hair on the human face and body, the history of the razor, and comparisons of the amount of human body hair to that of our simian relatives.
Considering the book's publisher is Germany's Bruno Gmuender, much time is spent examining the place of facial hair in recent gay culture, and how it is currently experiencing a huge resurgence - especially in the porn and fashion worlds. There is a bit of nudity here and there in the book, but most photographs show the furry subjects from the neck or waist up.
Clarke notes that facial - and indeed body hair in general -- has not had as prominent a place in gay culture since the "Clone Era" of the late 70s and early 80s. Since then, most gay and men's fashion styles have favored men who were clean-shaven and with minimal, or no, body hair.
Plenty of new porn actors are also included in the book, although oddly there aren't many mainstream bearded figures from today's worlds of sports, entertainment and fashion pictured.
If you have a gay friend on your holiday shopping list who's a fan of men with facial hair, "Beards: An Unshaven History" would be an ideal gift to put a smile on their furry little face.
"Beards: An Unshaven History"
Bruno Gmuender Verlag GmbH
by Kevin Clarke