The male beard falls into two fundamental categories, the trimmed and the wild. The former, sported by the likes of Shoreditch Hipsters and Noel Edmonds are no more than facial haircuts, whereas the latter are more like overgrown gardens.
A long unfettered beard can mean different things to different people; on the one hand it can be seen as a mark of wisdom, of power, on the other it may convey the savage, the unhinged.
In our society, spurning the razor can be seen as spurning society itself, yet some of our most of powerful icons and intellectuals are depicted with spontaneous bristles.
1. God. In Christianity, the big old man with his billowing white beard is nearly always depicted thus; perhaps most powerfully in Michelangelo’s thundering image that adorns the roof of the Sistine Chapel. Other gods available.
2. Jesus. A chip off the old block. It’d be impossible to imagine the prince of peace clean shaven sporting a side parting. Indeed, it’s not just Christian deities that like a freestyle beard, Sikhs don’t cut their hair at all, for them, it's a gift from God.
3. Sophocles, born in 497 BC, is one of the earliest intellectuals portrayed with a lusty beard. The prolific Greek playwright and master of the tragedy isn’t the only well-known genius happy to skip the barbers either.
4. Leonardo da Vinci, born 1452, the definitive Renaissance man and perhaps the greatest artist of them all. Massive beard. But don’t go throwing away your Bic just yet, it’s not all good.
5. King Henry the Eighth. He may have been a contemporary of Leonardo and, similarly, sported overrun whiskers but he was a very different sort of man. Whereas Leonardo liked to paint, sculpt and invent, Henry was more about separating the English church from Papal authority, reforming the constitution and decapitating wives.
6. Grigori Rasputin didn’t do much for the neglected beard either. Commonly known as the mad monk, Rasputin was murdered in 1916 after the one time star of the Tsar and the Russian Monarchy fell afoul of the status quo. But it wasn’t all bad news for the bedraggled beard.
7. Charles Darwin is as much associated with his facial hair as he is the origin of species... Perhaps not, his definitive treatise on evolution circa 1860 pretty much changed the way mankind viewed the natural and supernatural world.
8. Karl Marx did for society what Darwin did for science. Even if you don’t agree with him there’s no denying the communist manifesto shook 19th century philosophy to its shoes and his call-to-arms resonates to the present today. And it was all overseen by a vast hairy beard.
9. Allen Ginsberg, the beat poet who kicked-off counterculture in the 1950’s and literally invented flower power in the 60’s, thus re-inventing the anything-goes hair . He also had a beard to die for, and a bald head. Which brings us nicely to the present.
10. Rick Rubin, similarly bald and bearded, looks like the master he is. One of the finest record producers of all time he changed, and continues to change, the face of contemporary music, and that face has a monster beard on it.