The Racially Fraught History of the American BeardRoundup: Talking About History
tags: Black History, Race, beards
Sean Trainor is a doctoral candidate in history and women’s studies at Penn State University.
Let me declare what many already know: 2013 was a landmark year for men’s facial hair. From flamboyant beards to the proliferation of “old-fashioned” shops, evidence of the trend abounds, embracing groups as diverse as the Boston Red Sox, the men of Movember, and the Robertsons of Duck Dynasty. In dens of hipsterdom, one can hardly throw a PBR without hitting a waxed moustache. And the online craft marketplace Etsy now sells a limitless variety of wares imprinted with images of mustaches, from wine glasses to electrical outlets.
This is not the first time in recent memory that American men have sprouted facial hair in great numbers. The 1960s bristled with sideburns and beards—pared down, in the 1970s, to the decade’s iconic mustache. But one characteristic distinguishes this revival from previous ones: Today’s facial-hair enthusiasts share an affection for the ornate practices of the 1800s—the exuberant beards and ostentatious moustaches, as well as the elegance and “manliness” of the shops where those styles were cultivated.
What follows is the lost story of American facial hair. Like countless other histories, it is rife with contradictions. It begins with white Americans at the time of the Revolution who derided barbering as the work of “inferiors.” It continues with black entrepreneurs who turned it into a source of wealth and prestige. And it concludes with the advent of the beard—a fashion born out of desperation but transformed into a symbol of masculine authority and white supremacy....
comments powered by Disqus
- ‘If You Want to Experience Liberation, Black Women Must Be at the Table’
- A Century After a Race Massacre, Tulsa Finally Digs for Suspected Mass Graves
- Historians Will Likely Rank Trump as One of the Worst Presidents
- Black Lives Matter Movement Prods Bethlehem and Other Districts to Review How History is Taught
- During the Civil War, the Enslaved Were Given an Especially Odious Job. The Pay Went to Their Owners.
- Is Evangelical Support for Trump a Contradiction?
- Survival Of The Kindest: Can Our Better Nature Help Us Build A Better World?
- As Monuments Tumble, Are We ‘Erasing’ History? Historians Say No
- Historical Association Schools Teachers on White House History
- MIT Professor Tunney Lee, an Architect, Urban Planner, and Historian of Chinatown, Dies at 88