Today, most of us beardsman sport our whiskers for personal style. Sometimes, we have to comply with rules about facial hair at work, and some of us have to maintain our beard in a specific way as part of our religious practices. Very few of us, however, have to think about the law when it comes to beards. That’s why these six laws and rules related to beards are a little out of the ordinary!
In Russia, Peter the Great Imposed a Beard Tax
Peter the Great was named Great for a reason. He is credited with modernizing Russia. He restructured many aspects of Russian life, including the economy, the military and the government. How he went about doing it all is what’s a little weird. Peter disguised himself as Sergeant Pyotr Mikhaylov and traveled around Western Europe. He learned a lot about modern European society and brought it all back to Mother Russia with him. Along with, of course, an irrational hatred for facial hair. You see, men in world-conquering nations like England and the Netherlands all went clean-shaven. A baby face was all the rage and Peter wanted Russia to parallel these societies. So, during a welcome home party thrown in his honor, he whipped out a razor and began shaving the beards off all the men in the room. He then declared that Russian men should no longer wear beards and encouraged authorities to forcibly shave any bearded men they saw on the street. However, the Russian population didn’t like these rules very much, and Peter felt their disapproval. The Russian Orthodox Church even argued against this rule, citing Ivan the Terrible who had once said that shaving a man’s beard is an unforgivable sin. So, Peter eventually lightened up and allowed men to choose to maintain a beard, so long as they paid a tax. Once you were paid up, you would receive a beard token. Nowadays, of course, Russian men do not face any consequences for sporting a mane.
Henry VIII Imposed a Beard Tax. Allegedly.
Henry VIII is famed for being the worst husband in history, a divorce aficionado and just an all-around unpleasant dude. Oh, yeah, he was also the King of England. Henry was a bit of a loose cannon and very difficult to please. When he wasn’t beheading one of his wives, or starting his own church just to allow divorce, he was hating on beards. Allegedly. As Henry is the subject of many legends passed down over the centuries, this could be another, but the tale of King Henry VIII’s beard tax has stood the test of time. Historians in England say there is no evidence to back up the claim that Henry instituted a beard tax, but that doesn’t necessarily rule it out. Henry, of course, sported his own mane, and he is said to have made the beard tax a graduated tax. That meant, the higher your status in society, the more you had to pay. This resulted in the beard becoming a status symbol. It is also often said that Henry’s daughter, Elizabeth I, reinstituted her father’s beard tax, making it payable after two weeks of growth. Whether any of this is true remains to be seen, but we really hope that beard taxes are a thing of the past.
Fines for Yanking Another Man’s Beard
Also in Elizabeth I’s time, pulling on another man’s beard was considered an insult. Apparently, it happened more often than we might imagine. It became such a nuisance that a fine of two shillings was introduced for “tweaking” the beard of another man. It would appear society has come a long way from those days. Maybe it’s the internet or maybe we’ve just grown, but either way, we’re just glad beard-tugging isn’t a common enough thing to require a fine any longer.
Tajikistan Won’t Issue Passports to Bearded Men
Tajikistan, a Central Asian nation that borders China, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, is not a beard-friendly place. Authorities and officials in Tajikistan link beards directly to extremism and so they have set out to discourage facial hair by making beard ownership more than a little bit inconvenient. It has been reported that only men over 60 are able to obtain a passport while sporting whiskers. If you show up to renew your passport with a beard, they will tell you to come back clean-shaven. As a large portion of their population is Muslim, many men are finding they have no choice but to shave in order to make the pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims are expected to take in their lifetimes. In 2011, Tajikistan lost a star soccer player to Dubai when the athlete was barred from a championship game due to his beard. Fed up, he moved away from the country and played elsewhere. Some reports have leaked those police officers will go so far as to stop bearded men and forcibly shave them.
Uzbekistan Forcibly Shaves Men With Beards
While no specific law exists with regards to beards, the state officially views the beard as a threat to national security. The reason is similar to Tajikistan’s in that extremists are often bearded. Men have reported being rounded up with hundreds of their fellow countrymen and forcibly shaved. This sounds like something out of antiquity but, sadly, this is happening today. Here’s hoping Uzbekistan frees the beard, soon!
The Roman Church Banned Beards in 1031
In the eleventh century, beards were a point of contention in Christianity. The church and different factions within it would flip flop back and forth on whether or not beards were acceptable. Some argued that a beard was immodest, while others argued that beards were made in God’s image as was everything else about the man. In England, the Canons of Edgar outlawed beards for priests. In Northumbria, the Council of Bourges made a shaved beard a requirement for “all who minister within the Holy Church.” Beards, it would appear, were a major cause of a massive split in Christianity between Eastern and Western sects that exists today. Talk about getting fired up over nothing!
There are hundreds more instances throughout our history of restrictive beard rules. So, next time you’re going through your beard care routine and pampering your whiskers with your Kingsmen Premium products, take a minute to appreciate the freedom your magnificent mane has now.