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Famous Beards - Famous People

What makes history, is it the man or the beard?  In some instances, it is both.  Throughout the history of beards, there are numerous examples of famous beards being worn by famous people or is it the other way around?   Examples includes the Sumerians and the Ancient Egyptians, but also Jesus Christ who is often depicted with a beard.  Yet it is not enough to know the name of famous men with beards, it is also important to know why they chose to become bearded in the first place.

Starting with Jesus, his is arguably the most famous of beards and he is undoubtedly one of the most famous people of all time.  However, what we consider the traditional image of him as fully bearded did not become the norm until the 6th century. 

By that time Christianity had become the recognized religion in the remnants of the Roman world and the image of a bearded Jesus probably had as much to do with how rulers wore their facial hair as it did with historical and theological accuracy.  Images of a bearded Jesus were first adopted by Byzantine Christian and eventually spread to the west where it was considered exotic.   The Shroud of Turin is probably the most famous example from early Western Christendom as it depicts a fully bearded Jesus.

The Prophet Muhammad has left an indelible mark on history in many ways.  One of which is the beards which many devout Muslims grow in an effort to follow in the path of the Prophet.  Whilst growing a beard is not mandated by the Qur’an the practice is outlined in one of the many Hadiths (sayings) of the Prophet.   For example, Hadith No. 5043, from the Book of Adornment, Sunan An-Nasa’i, Volume 6 preaches that facial hair for men is as God intended it.

A more contemporary famous beard is that of General Ambrose Burnside.  Whilst the General is famous in his own right for his role in the American Civil War, his beard is even more famous and spawned the phrase ‘sideburns.’  Putting aside the flamboyant aspects of the General’s beard, it may have also had a practical purpose, especially in his younger days, as such a beard would protect his face from abrasion while riding with his pith helmet on.

In fact, many of the most famous beards in history are attributed to famed military leaders.  The list includes Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, the father of the German Navy.  His famous beard was notable for its two great wisps of hair descending from his chin as if he was paying tribute to Neptune, the god of the ocean.  Otto the Great, who founded the Holy Roman Empire was also known for his facial hair and Marxist revolutionary, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, who’s bearded likeness has become of fighting for the rights of the oppressed.

Military figures are not the only famous people with famous beards, Charles Darwin sported an extremely bushy beard which some believe he did to highlight his points on natural selection.  Grigori Rasputin has also been immortalized for his beard.  The Russian mysticist captured the attention of Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna for his purported ability to heal Tsesarevich Alexei of Hemophilia.  However, he was despised by other members of Russian Nobility and was eventually poisoned, shot, and drowned. 

Yet another famous man with a famous beard was Lemmy, the leader of the highly influential rock band Motörhead was just as well-known for his beard as he was for his music.  Even though Lemmy died last year, he will forever be remembered by his fans, many of whom aspire to emulate his look.

Don’t forget Colonel Harland David Sanders.  His bearded face has gone on to adorn nearly 20,000 KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) outlets in 118 countries around the world.  While there is little information on when he started to wear his trademarked mustache and goatee, his may well be the most ubiquitous beard of all time. 

Another notable person and famous beard is James ‘Grizzly’ Adams.  The famed California mountain man earned his nickname for his ability to train Grizzly Bears, but it is his beard in all of its glory that is what most people think of today.  For Adams, shaving was not a priority while living in the wilds of the Sierra Nevada mountains, but another theory for his bushy beard was that it made him less threatening to the bears he was trying to train.

This list of famous beards only scratches the surface as history full of great men who let their hair out.  The reasons for these wondrous beards are a varied as the famous people themselves, from religion to portraying power to practicality; however, the one thing these beards have in common is that the men who wore them changed the world.


 Provided by: Peter Hablutzel

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