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The Beard Is NOT A Superfluous Burden!
We take a brief hiatus from our otherwise engaging lists of Best Beards In… to discuss something that has just recently come to our attention, but which should be known by every man, woman and child for the despicable and tyrannical act that is was. The year was 1535, and King Henry VIII of England levied a tax on all men who chose to wear beards. Perhaps in efforts of eliminating competition in the beard arena, Henry VIII set a progressive tax on those men who chose to stand defiant against his will and continue in the wearing of their beards. Thus, rather than doing away with the fashion of facial hair, the English King inadvertently made beards something of a status symbol, reserved for the affluent and revered by the impoverished. In a certain convoluted way, we actually have Henry VIII’s shortsighted economic policy to thank for the prevalence, rather than the scarcity, of beards in modern society. Just adding insult to injury was the irony that Henry VIII, himself, wore a beard during his reign.
Later, his own daughter, who had, herself, evidently tired of beards much in the same way her father had (but for his own, of course), Elizabeth I of England chose to levy a similar tax to be paid by any man wearing a beard of more than two weeks growth. Historians surmise that, had she known a suitor in possession of a beard of more than two weeks growth, perhaps her opinion would have been different. Again, though, like her father’s despotic tax, this would not serve to eliminate the fashion of facial hair, but, much to the contrary, would actually only serve to reinforce its popularity among those with sufficient financial stature.
Then, over one and a half centuries later, in 1698, Emperor Peter I of Russia imposed a very similar tax on the wearing of beards, evidently with the intention of giving way to a more modernized society. In efforts of making his empire a more modern (by which he evidently meant clean-shaven) one, Peter I set out not only to levy a tax against all bearded men under his rule, but also to demand that those men should carry with them, in plain sight as evidence of having made payment, a copper coin specifically designed to shame the bearded fellow. The coin bared a Russian eagle on one side and, on the reverse, it displayed the lower half of a man’s face, complete with nose, moustache, mouth and beard. Two phrases were inscribed upon the coin, one reading, “The beard tax has been taken,” and the other, less functional and vastly more spiteful, reading, “The beard is a superfluous burden.”
We, at Detroit Grooming Co., believe that the beard is neither a burden, nor is it superfluous, and we stand defiant, like all those men under the rule of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and Peter I who refused to shave off their beards merely to satisfy the maniacal fancy of a tyrant, and say, “Embrace thy beard!”
- Jacob Smith