By Whitney Vickers
FAIRBORN — A fifth “beard movement” could be underway, which has the potential to offer a new perspective on masculinity, according to Wright State University History Professor Christopher Oldstone-Moore.
He has spent the past 10 years researching the history of beards and shaving, and recently put it all together in a book “Of Beards and Men.”
“It’s not just talking about beards and such, but using the discussion of beards to see what’s going on beyond that,” Oldstone-Moore said. “I want to get at the larger question of manliness, but on the other hand, it’s full of stories and [offers] a fresh perspective on famous people like Abraham Lincoln, Adolph Hitler and Alexander the Great.”
His research on the topic began after he started teaching western civilization at WSU, and wished to make the class more interesting. However, upon diving into the topic, he hit a wall — discovering that no one had really researched the history of facial hair.
So, he thought, “Why not me?”
“I’ve got a lot of people and fun stories,” Oldstone-Moore said. “I designed it to be interesting and entertaining, as well as thought provoking.”
“Of Beards and Men” highlights what is assumed to be true, but is not, and aims to set the hairy record straight. It follows what was popular back when civilization first began to the present. The book stresses not only how the favored whisker-style has changed among men and what women have preferred, but how individuals of fame and power have treated the five-o’clock-shadow as well.
For example, Alexander the Great popularized the clean-shaven look, but four temporary eras, or “beard movements,” have brought the spotlight on different shaving styles.
“These changes in [beard]-styling … are very slow and uncommon,” Oldstone-Moore said. “The changes are kind of rare and, when they happen, they’re significant because that means something big is happening in the culture, having to do with ideas of manliness.”
Whether or not the fifth “beard movement” is taking place will be revealed within the next five to 10-years, contingent on stubble becoming more common in corporate environments. However, People magazine selecting the bearded David Beckham as its 2015 Sexiest Man Alive and House Speaker Paul Ryan committing to scruff, indicates that it could be happening.
“Once you’ve got corporate board rooms, military … and capital chambers, places of real power start to wear beards, then you know that we’re in a bearded era,” Oldstone-Moore said. “Right now, it’s a fashion trend among young men, in the tech world and [among] working class — we’re halfway there, not quite.”
“Of Beards and Men” is available on Amazon, local bookstores and through Kindle. He has no immediate plans of book signings, but expects within the next month or so to organize such.
Reach Whitney Vickers at 937-502-4532 or on Twitter @wnvickers.