The beard fashion of the past 10 years on both sides of the Atlantic mirrors an earlier facial hair craze, which started during the Crimean War, lasted for three decades, and was only entirely stamped out with the invention of the disposable razor in the early 1900s, writes Lucinda Hawksley.
They were not merely growing the well-coiffed whiskers and neat moustaches hitherto deemed acceptable, but cultivating enormous whiskers that connected to huge, bushy beards and left just about enough space between them and the ever-expanding moustache to allow the owner to eat and speak.
In Britain the return of the beard (the full beard had last been in vogue in Tudor times) was thanks to the Crimean War of 1854-56. Beards had been banned in the British army until this time, but the freezing temperatures of Crimean winters, and the impossibility of getting shaving soap, led to a necessary change.
By the time the last troops returned home, beards were the mark of a hero. Men who had never seen any military action began to grow beards. Within a few years, it was almost impossible to see a beard-free male face in Victorian Britain – except in Buckingham Palace, as Prince Albert refused to conform to the fashion.