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Facial hair's formative years: what the Vikings and Romans did for male grooming


Facial hair has been represented in art since the first cave person picked up a piece of charcoal and decided to draw a man. Early art also reveals that facial hair has long been tamed – usually by being clipped or plucked – suggesting that the all-important question of 'To shave or not to shave?' has been around for almost as long as humans themselves. Over the centuries facial hair has fallen in and out of fashion. Hairy faces have been lauded, derided, commemorated in art and even legislated against.

In ancient Egypt, for example, shaving was associated with cleanliness, so priests shaved themselves entirely and would then wear a stylised false beard for ceremonial purposes. Surviving Egyptian art suggests that non-priests also wore false beards, in this case to emphasise that they were followers of the god Osiris.

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