The Beard Movement in Victorian Britain

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2005


In the middle of the nineteenth century the face of masculinity suddenly changed in Western culture. In a few short years, full beards spread from the social margins inhabited by artists and Chartists into the respectable mainstream. This transformation of men's faces has thus far drawn remarkably little comment from historians or literary critics. The Victorians, by contrast, had a great deal to say about this renovation of the masculine image. In pamphlets, polemical books, and the periodical press, Victorians engaged in a lively discussion that sheds light on changing notions of masculinity and illuminates the decision of millions of British men to spurn more than a century of tradition by letting their beards grow.

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