“The Beard is the Handsomeness of the Face” -R’ Akiva, Eicha Rabbah

Blog authors and bearded brethren Joey Smith and Eric Todd are currently working on the upcoming program Curls, Cornrows & Comb-over’s: Investigating the Do’s, Don’ts & Science of Hair.

Joey Smith ponders pogonotrophy.

The study of beards and facial hair is ‘pogonology,’ the art of growing facial hair, ‘pogonotrophy.’ How do I know this? I grow a beard. I have one. I have friends who have beards. Why don’t you know these words? Well, I’m assuming because you don’t wear a beard. And let me tell you this: There is no point in knowing these words if you don’t plan on growing a beard. Why? Because the true pleasure of these words comes from sitting back and contemplating the art of pogonotrophy while stroking your finely groomed Ducktail.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “You only know this because you work for the museum and you’ve been charged with hours of research devoted to hair and beards for the upcoming program Curls, Cornrows & Comb-overs.” Spoken like a true baby face. I’ll have you know, I’ve been a beard aficionado for years. I appreciate the devotion evident in a grizzly summer beard and the artistic sensibility behind a well-cropped Van Dyke. Personally, I’ve worn everything from Mutton Chops to a Fu Manchu and, being a beard wearer, I understand the subtle nuances that come with wearing facial hair. The head nods between bearded strangers acknowledging each other’s perseverance, the hierarchy of beards and mustaches and the ability to be able to spot a ‘poser’ a mile away. These are all things a true beard wearer knows or sometimes just feels. It’s all part of owning a tract of facial hair.

For the longest time I thought I was the only one who had such pride in my pogonology prowess, but then I thought about all of the great men through time who sported beards. After all, the Imperial beard is named after Napoleon III (not to be confused with the clean-shaven tyrant Napoleon I). Aristotle and Abraham Lincoln are fellow members of the bearded community. And we all know Einstein is known best for his mustache. 

Hans Langseth and the world’s longest beard.

Granted, Curls, Cornrows & Comb-overs is about more than facial hair. There will be an abundance of information related to the hair on top of your head, including hair care tips, demonstrations, activities, games and even hair-readings. But I know that I’ll be taking special notice and nodding with respect at my bearded brethren across the museum’s Great Hall on Jan. 29. Until then, as my gift to you, enjoy these pearls of bearded wisdom. You should probably write this down or bookmark this post:

  • Did you know the last American President to wear a full beard was Hoosier Benjamin Harrison? That was from 1889 to 1893. Rutherford B. Hayes had the longest beard of the American presidents. ‘Rutherford B. Hayes?’ you ask. You’re right, I should change it; the beard makes him Rutherford B. Awesome. I apologize for the error.
  • The average male will grow about 27 feet of hair out of his face in a lifetime.
  • “All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President.” Sent by 11-year-old Grace Bedell, this line was the reason Lincoln grew his iconic beard before leaving Illinois for the White House.
  • When he died in 1927, the beard of Hans Langseth of Norway measured 17.5 feet. You can see Langseth’s beard at the Smithsonian Institution.

And just in case you need one last bit of inspiration, I leave you with the words of our friends at TheBeardly.com: ‘Without a beard, you’re the same as every other woman and child.’