Which Emperor Made The Beard Fashionable In Ancient Rome

The Inception of Beard Fashions in Ancient Rome

Beards have been fashionable since the beginning of recorded history. Ancient Roman fashion first popularized facial hair more than two thousand years ago, and it has been rocked by men ever since. To understand how it all began, it is important to look back at the first Roman Emperor to set the trend.

In 48 AD, Julius Caesar started a beard revolution by growing a full beard. This was rare for Romans, who largely kept their faces clean-shaven until this moment. Although some Roman senators had already been growing facial hair before Caesar, it was Caesar’s decision to sport a prominent beard that set the trend. He believed that a ruler should always stand out from the people that he governed and he did just that with his choice of facial hair.

At the time, growing a beard was seen as a sign of strength, power and courage. Caesar wouldn’t always have been able to work his aura of power on the battlefield, so instead he used his facial hair as a symbol of leadership and set the fashion standard for Roman men.

After Caesar’s assassination in 44 B.C., his successor, Augustus, was the first Roman Emperor to solidify facial hair as a defining feature of how an emperor should look. As the first emperor of Rome, Augustus sought to distance himself from his predecessor. To do this, he chose to go without a beard. This decision angered his supporters, who thought the absence of a beard went against the legacy of Julius Caesar.

Augustus, however, viewed a beard as a symbol of tyranny, so he continued to go clean-shaven throughout his reign. He sought to portray himself as a ruler who embodied justice and constancy rather than savagery, a message he hoped to convey to the Roman public with his unkempt, shaven face.

Things changed, however, when Claudius took the throne. Claudius was Augustus’s stepson, which provided him a sense of legitimacy. To further legitimize his position, he grew a full beard. This made him the first ruling Roman Emperor to do so since Julius Caesar, and the people accepted him for it.

The trend of facial hair continued throughout Roman history. Emperor Nero and Nero’s nephew, Commodus, also kept beards, continuing the fashion trend begun by Julius Caesar. Others, such as Caligula and Domitian, followed the trend of shaving their beards in order to project a certain image.

Long Hair and Mustaches

Facial hair was not the only popular trend among Roman Emperors. Long hair and mustaches were also fashionable for some of the more flamboyant rulers, such as Nero. Nero had unusually long, curly, black hair that reached down to his chest. He also grew out a luxurious mustache and kept it oiled and groomed.

Nero’s long locks served as a reminder of his power and prowess to the citizens of Rome. His flamboyance had a different effect, however, alienating him from the general public and most of his peers. To some, Nero’s hair was seen as excessive, serving no real purpose other than to flaunt his status and wealth.

That said, Nero was not the only ruler to sport a long hairstyle; Caligula also sought to distinguish himself through his hair. Although short in comparison to Nero’s, Caligula’s thick curls swept his shoulders, a concession Caesar certainly would not have made. By comparison, Augustus was known to have kept a neatly trimmed and understated hairstyle to signify his austerity.

Interestingly, long hair was not just fashionable among Roman Emperors, but also among Roman soldiers. Some of the leading legions wore their hair long, with tightly-combed locks that extended to the tips of their shoulders. This distinguished them from the masses, who often kept their hair cropped close to their heads.

Symbolism of Facial Hair

The early Roman Emperors used facial hair as a tool for self-expression and to signify their power and authority. As time went on, the trend began to represent a new sort of masculinity: strength, loyalty, and courage. It is this same interpretation of facial hair that still resonates with men today.

Roman facial hair has also come to signify a fashion statement. Although clean-shaven faces have been in style in certain circles, full beards, goatees, and stubble are all fashionable again today, with celebrities and influencers showing off their various facial hair styles.

Overall, it is clear that beard fashion has a long history in ancient Rome and continues to be popular today. Despite the occasional interruption of shaving styles, facial hair has held a place of symbolism throughout the centuries, with the first Roman emperor to set the trend being Julius Caesar.

Beard Grooming Products

Of course, a well-coiffed beard is not easy to achieve. Imperial Europe saw a boom in manicure and grooming tools in the 19th century, with merchants selling specially designed equipment for tutoring and trimming beards and mustaches. These products were even exported to other countries as the demand for personal hygiene products increased.

Today, much of the world has shifted away from tools like razors and scissors and towards more modern hair removal systems such as electric shavers, beard trimmers and waxing. Although the old-world approach to shaving may be a thing of the past, the demands of beard fashion in Rome remain.

Beard care products have also become a booming business in recent years, with various products and treatments available on the market. Shampoo and conditioner, oils and balms, creams and waxes all aim to maintain a healthy and stylish looking beard. It is now easier than ever to keep a beard looking good and it is no wonder that beards remain as fashionable today as they were in ancient Rome.

The Influence of Military Styles

Military styles impacted facial hair fashions in ancient Rome, with some of the more distinguished legions wearing their hair long and pulled back. This was done to distinguish them from the general public, who usually kept their hair cropped close. Soldiers wanted to stand out from the crowd and show their commitment to service.

The trend of long hair and facial hair within the Roman military began to spread among the general population. Even today, military styles are still influencing men’s fashion. The popularity of thick, full beards, for instance, was inspired by military regulations that required all enlisted personnel to grow a beard.

That said, facial hair and hairstyles in the military have changed over time. The original regulation stating that all enlisted personnel must have facial hair has long since been abolished. Today, officers have a variety of facial hair options, from maintaining a clean-shaven face to sporting a full beard.

Additionally, modern military regulation allows for a variety of hairstyles, and soldiers are no longer required to stick with one look. This is a far cry from the regulations in Rome, where the general public was expected to keep their hair short and groomed to tightly-formed locks.

Look to the Past

The Romans’ approach to facial hair has had a lasting influence on today’s fashion world. Although modern trends have been greatly influenced by other cultures, the impact of Roman facial hair should not be understated. It is clear that, almost two millenniums later, Julius Caesar’s beard is still seen as a symbol of power and strength.

It is also important to remember that facial hair styles will continue to evolve to reflect the changing tastes of each generation. Who knows what the men of the future will be wearing on their faces, but one thing is for certain: the trend of facial hair that Julius Caesar introduced will never die out, and will continue to inspire men for generations to come.

Moshe Rideout is a professional writer and historian whose work focuses on the history of Ancient Rome. Moshe is passionate about understanding the complexity of the Roman Empire, from its architecture to its literature, political systems to social structures. He has a Bachelor's degree in classic studies from Rutgers University and is currently pursuing a PhD in classical archaeology at UMass Amherst. When he isn't researching or writing, he enjoys exploring ruins around Europe, drawing inspiration from his travels.

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