Beards as a cultural marker

Continuing the discussion from 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine (Part 2):

As the subject of masculine facial hair is an interesting topic outside of the (ongoing) Russian invasion of Ukraine, I’m posting my thoughts in this shiny, new, clean-shaven topic.

I did mention the way chemical warfare and gas masks changed facial hair rules in the US military, but I did neglect the fact that facial hair was also a cultural thing going all the way back to the beginning of written history.

Take Rome, how shaving was a thing of fashion. Most depictions of Romans and statues show them clean-shaven, up until Nero with his scraggly incel beard, and Caesars after him also adopting “Germanic” facial hair, then shaving, then letting the beard grow again.

Gauls also had this thing about shaving that they were known for their vanity, especially cisalpine Gaul. It’s part of why our modern view of them shows them with mustaches, since they were supposedly one of the first to trim their facial hair so.

But returning to the modern age: up until George W. Bush started the War on Terra, facial hair was not a part of the military image. Soldiers were only allowed a small mustache, and it had to be kept trim at all times. It was pretty much accepted that as a soldier, you were part of a unit and were required to keep a uniform appearance. There’s a whole Nib post, talking more about the Punisher logo and law enforcement, but it also touches upon this. I recommend reading it.

That’s just off the top of my head, with no real research done. What sayeth the hive mind?


Beards and hair in general are such a rich area for cultural identity. I think it’s probably safe to say that every culture has some rules/expectations/taboos tied to the keratin sprouting from our heads. And some similar judgments about the hairy bits of people we label as part of whatever out-groups we’re frowning at.


I remember this comic so I looked it up. I believe it was this: About Face – Popula


I do wonder sometimes what my neighbors think of me. I have a beard, drive a truck, fly a flag outside my home, military veteran plates. I could easily be perceived as a gunhugger from that comic. I do hope though that my neighbors judge me more by my acts.


As a teenager it seemed to me that (regarding the ‘Troubles’ in Ireland at the time) Republicans tended to sport full beards and this had a tendency to make them all look alike.

Given the nature of the conflict, I used to wonder if this was a deliberate tactic, or if it was just the fashion at the time.


My dad got stopped by the police often at gunpoint in the 80’s and 90’s cause they thought he was some kind of Irish terrorist. His beard did make him look like every other mugshot on the news at the time, and the police often couldn’t differentiate Scottish and Irish accents.


I’ve reassessed having a beard a few times because of this kind of thing, especially when beards came back into style among the angry crowd. It’s weird to suddenly think critically about something I’ve had for the better part of 20 years.

I also likely give of a similar vibe to you. I’ve got the beard, I drive a truck, wear a lot of plaid, and I’m home literally all the time. The reality is I’m just a quiet writer who’s quite liberal and likes the outdoors.


I’ve kept facial hair for nearly 30 years. I wonder how much time and money I’ve saved by not shaving.


I hate shaving, for years I was clean shaven or I would go a week or so without shaving and look all half shaven.

About 6 years ago I decided to grow a beard and keep it trimmed, easier than shaving every day with the use of one of those cordless beard trimmers. I kept it short so it was easy.

When covid started to go really crazy and I needed to be around people I went back to clean shaven so the N95 mask would work better. If things get better I’ll grow the beard again this spring or summer because I’m still lazy and hate shaving.

The only person whose opinion I care about is my wife, if she says it’s fine then it stays.


this is something that intrigues me, as i do consider how my appearance is perceived by some other folks. i have kept a close trimmed 'stache and goat (chin sweater) for much of my adult life. that and the short-topped, shaved side haircut that may have certain baggage attached, but the loose bandana head cover kind of gives a different vibe.
my neck is red, but my heart is blue. i am a keybilly what drives a truck pulling a boat and hanging out in the marina and hardware store with many old farts that look very similar (i’d like to flatter myself that my beer gut is not as pronounced!). i am aware of many of my neighbor’s political leanings and they do not align with mine. no one even notices me or thinks me different. that is not intentional, i am not “hiding in plain sight”. alls anyone has to do is ask, but they won’t - i look too much like them. the tee shirt messages and bandana head scarf only seem to mark me as an aging hippie or (gag) parrothead.

“Dear Phlippa, should i change my look to differentiate myself from MAGAts?
~curious in the Keys”

eta: @NukeML @GratuitousFish your comments inspired me to give mine. rural life is a bit fraught at times and being the super liberal redneck i am, really made me want to chime in here. makes me wonder just how off-putting i must appear to actually like-minded people. why does it have to be so complicated?


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