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Friend, Eyes out here’s the beard owner

Updated: May 12, 2022

How Politics and Religion Influenced Fashion

Did you know that Louis VII lost empires by cropping his beard? Henry I ,started naked out of his bed with the sword dreaming monks torturing him because of long hairs? There was a time when a tax was imposed on people carrying beards in Russia? Who would have thought that carrying a beard would have been so downplaying? While today what we do is not shaving! To grow one.

Speak with respect and Honor. Both of the beard and the beard’s owner.

How they got bald in the armies?

The fashion of hair and beard were state questions in England and France from the beginning of Christianity till the fifteenth century. Alexander the Great thought beards allow easy access to the enemy preparing to go for the head. The next thing his army sported shiny bald heads and striped chins! On the contrary, North American Indians considered it an honor to allow locks to grow for the enemy to have hold of something. A long beard was considered a symbol of sovereignty in Europe. The Successors of Clovis considered long hair and beard a symbol of Royalty. The courtship to establish themselves next to the king did the same. King Harold and his army on the verge of Hastings saw the artillery with face and chin shaven. The fashion among Englishmen at that time was to carry long hair on the head and upper lip with a shaved chin.

Go Bald or cut them off

This kind of fashion was displeasing for the clergy. It was decreed all over Europe that such people carrying long hair should be cast off from society while they are alive and not to be prayed for after death. This way of thinking turned into an extreme set of beliefs. For Example St.Wulstan, Bishop of Worcester was quite resentful of people with long hair. He would carry a small knife and whenever someone carrying long hair knelt before him he would cut them off and throw them yelling ‘ Go to Hell’. Visions and dreams influenced such norms as well. A knight proud of his beautiful locks dreamt one night that the devil is choking him with his hair. The next morning he was mouthful with his hair. He took it as an indication from heaven and cropped those locks. This story incensed everywhere, especially among the clergy. Priests spoke and rehearsed it to set an example for the people.

Have you tried a Haircut in your dreams?

Henry, I was quite undeterred by the dreams of people. Even his dreams did not induce him to get a haircut. Still, several visions made it disagreeable for him to live with his hair locks. He had a dream of monks and bishops torturing him with pastoral staves. This sight frightened him so much that he started naked out of his bed carrying a sword. His physician told him that these dreams are not the cause of indigestion but told him to shave his head and show conformity towards the church. He deferred this advice until he was about to drown in a violent storm at the sea. This led him to cut his hair short and follow the clergy. This shows how religion shapes our lives even for elementary things.

Imagine! Someone losing an empire over hair cut!

A similar but contradictory incident is about Louis VII that can question someone to challenge the ideologies of religion. In France, such ordinances and visions about long hairs were not respected that much. However, Louis VII was much more obedient than his brother and cropped his hair after being conscious of the events taking place. His Queen, Eleanor of Guienne did not like this trim look of his. She lambasted it and even made fun of it comparing him with ascetic monks. This brought differences in their relationship. The lady in turn proved unfaithful to the king which led to a divorce. The king of France lost the rich provinces of Poitou and Guienne which were her dowry. She later married Henry Duke of Normandy. This conjugal relationship paved way for a strong footing of English sovereigns in France this became a cause of wars between these nations. Such was the impact of Clergy on the lives of people. Carrying beard and voluminous hairs became a statement of acceptance of the virtues of the clergy and the monarchs.

Hey! Get a Hairdo and then stand next to me

When Scottish people visited London in 1327 on the occasion of the marriage between David Bruce and Joan, the sister of King Edward they made an Epigram on the church door of St.Petersgate church which says

“Longbeard heartlesse,

Painted hoods witlesse,

Grey coats gracelesse,

Make England thriftlesse.”

It was not just a state of mind or an element of religion but a question of virility too. As Emperor Charles V mounted the throne of Spain he had no beard. It was perceived that all persons surrounding the monarch should not look more virile than him. Immediately all of them appeared beardless except a few old men who determined to die with a beard. People revolted this opinion as it questioned freedom and they quoted

“We have no longer souls since we have lost our beards”.

Do not forget to pay your taxes…On Beard

Russians wanted to oppose the foreigners in this particular aspect of keeping a beard as it was banished from other European countries. However, Peter the Great thought differently. He followed his and ordered shaved beards not only for the serfs but nobles as well. After a certain amount of time and several warnings later every man who owns a beard had to pay 100 Roubles. The Priests were exempt to a certain extent after they pay a minimal sum on the cities gate. The tax collectors for this offence gave in receipt for the payment of a small copper coin made specifically for this purpose. On one side there was a mouth, a nose and a beard with the text ‘money received’. On the other side, it bore the date of the year. Every man was obliged to show this receipt on entry into the city. Those who refused to pay were thrown into prison.


From Dreams to visions to ecclesiastical influences everything has shaped Fashion in our world. There have been laws and ordinances regarding beards and hair locks. From Henry I who dreamt of being tortured for his hairs to Louis VII who lost empires because of his long hairs. We have seen several Monarchs getting influenced by petty thoughts and vision which shaped the beliefs of their people. It is quite right in saying that these events shaped us too. In the contemporary world these visions have just taken the names of rituals and customs. The dynamics of this hyper real world are swift and fragile it is only change that is constant. It’s not long when we will see Santa Klaus with a stripped chin.

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