The explanation of why beards evolved was written by Charles Darwin’s work The Descent of Man, which suggests that the process of sexual selection led to men beards. Modern biologists proclaim sexual selection was the reason for men growing beards.
Archaeologists have found evidence that men started to shave off their beards as early as 100,000 BC. The first razors discovered date back to 30,000 BC, and were made of flint.
In early times men used stone, flint, clam shells, and other sharpened materials to scrape off their beards. Bronze and copper were also used.
Before these tools were used shaving was very painful. One who wanted a bare face would use two sea shells to grip their hair, then pull; a method which sounds even more distressing than getting a bikini wax. (The Troubled History of Beards)
Beards During Ancient Mesopotamia
Beard grooming can be traced all the way back to Ancient Mesopotamia. The Assyrians, Sumerians, and the Phoenicians all grew long beards. Beards represented rank in a social class. The longer the beard the more a person ranked in a hierarchy. The nobility wore their beards dyed with henna and gold dust. Sesame oil was thought to be used to adorn their beards. Ancient Sumerian Beard
The Mesopotamian civilizations (Chaldean, Babylonian, Assyrian, Median, Aramean, and Ancient Persian) committed great attention to oiling their beards, using tongs or curling irons to create elaborate ringlets and frizzles. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beard#Mesopotamia)
Phoenicians displayed curly beards, but avoided growing mustaches.
Gold dust, gold thread, and scented yellow starch were sometimes used in the hair and the beard for festive occasions.
In Ancient India and Turkey, the beard was allowed to grow long, a symbol of dignity and wisdom.
The Turks considered cutting the beard shameful; slaves were shaved as a symbol of bondage. .(http://wordinfo.info/unit/3365/ip:1/il:B)
Beards During Ancient Egypt
Egyptians honored the beard as a symbol of sanctity and superiority. Records indicate the highest ranking Egyptians grew hair on their chins.
Shaving was significant to the Ancient Egyptians. Pharoahs would have their barbers shave them with divine, jewel-faced razors. When a Pharoah passed away, he was buried with a barber and his faithful razor. The Ancient Egyptians believed he could continue shaving in the afterlife. (http://www.artofmanliness.com/2012/06/07/shaving-rituals/)
Ancient Egyptian with postiche
A metallic, false beard or postiche, which was worn as a sign of royalty, worn by queens and kings.
The false beard was held in place by a ribbon tied over the head and attached to a gold chin strap, a fashion existing from about 3000 B.C. To 1580 B.C. (Wikipedia)
Beards During Ancient Greeks
The Ancient Greeks were beard lovers too. The beard represented manhood and wisdom. Greek boys dedicated their first beard to the Sun God Apollo and were not allowed to cut the hair on their heads until their beards grew.
Alexander the Great changed how Greeks wore their beards. He forced his soldiers to shave their beards because he thought it was a military disadvantage.
However, slaves were forced to shave. Greeks cut their beards during times of mourning. When a man died, his relatives would often hung beard trimmings on the door.
Shaving another man’s beard was a severe crime and punishable by a fine. The Greeks would use shaving as a means of punishment since it was considered disgraceful when not having one.
The Spartans also used the same tactics and would cut off a section man’s beard when was fainthearted during battle.
Greece was mainly known for using olive oil on the beard. Castor oil was also used widely in Ancient Greece. While it had hundreds of uses, castor oil was useful for keeping hair healthy. Castor oil was even known to make the beard grow faster, due to its high concentration of fatty acids (Oilypedia).
Beard Oil During The Roman Empire
Romans were neat shaven and generally didn’t wear beards for the most part.
In the German frontiers of ancient Rome lived Germanic tribes who grew some of the wildest beards in history. The mostly beardless ancient Romans were both frightened and enthralled by Germanic beards.
Rome considered a long beard sloppy and believed it represented poverty. Romans didn’t start growing beards until the second century.
Caracalla, Roman, Emperor 215-217CE
Beards During The English Monarchy
Over time in Europe, a clean-shaven face became the preferred style. The beard eventually came back into fashion, but a few rulers objected the idea .
In 1698, Peter The Great commanded his messengers and officials to cut off their beards. Portrait of Henry Viii
To disgrace them, he would sometimes personally shave the beards of his noblemen.
People who wanted to keep their beards had to pay a tax –
100 rubles each year – as well as carry…
…around a medal proclaiming that “beards are a ridiculous ornament.” (Troubled History Of Beards)
A similar taxation was passed by England’s Henry VIII in 1535 – who, hypocritically, continued to grow a beard of his own.
Luckily for English clergymen, priests already kept their faces clean-shaven a sign of their celibacy. So, when the protestant reformation began in the 16th century, protestant priests would grow their beards out in protest of the old ways. In this case, size mattered; the greater the beard, the greater the protest.
More towards the East, one punishment for crimes was to have one’s beard removed in public. In America, an Amish man will keep a clean-shaven face until he has married, after which he will grow a beard which he will keep forever. In the Chatti, a German tribe, a man was not allowed to shave until he had killed an enemy. (Troubled History of Beards)
During the Renaissance, wearing a beard was a sign of manhood. It symbolized growing from boy to man. The “beard made the man ” as quoted by Will Fisher in his article in Renaissance England.
Almost every portrait of a man painted between 1550 to 1650 contained some portrayal of facial hair – from the Francis Drake-style pointy beard to the Charles I ‘Van Dyke’. Read more from Dr Alun Withey.
Beard In The Modern TImes
The rise of beards and beard oils have been credited by movies and tv shows. More celebiities are wearing beards because beards make us look more attractive.
Especially, when their beards are moisturized and conditioned properly with the right beard oil. The beard represents masculinity and women are attracted to it. According to PsychologyToday, women perceived male faces with full beards as the most masculine, aggressive, and socially mature.
Men with no facial hair were rated the second-least attractive, but also least likely romantic partners.
Sources (TroubledHistoryofbeard, Wikipedia,Theartofmanliness.com,Pyschology Today)