Crunching Data: Making Sense of Bearded Studies

A casual Wednesday evening and a quick search for beard-related articles online.

Scholars really write about everything and anything, there’s bound to be something on man’s favourite facial accessory. A quick search on clever article database JSTOR pulls up an astounding number of results:


All that scholarly language can be exhausting, but I’m curious to see what the clever people make of beards. Since you don’t have time to read 16,800 articles of at least five pages each (probably), I’ve read them all for you* and now present the

Bearded London Translation Machine

to make sense of all that data. Scroll and learn, hairy friends.

Androgens and hair growth; Valerie Anne Randall (Dermatologic Therapy, 21:2008, pp. 314-328)

What it says:

“Androgens act within the follicle to alter the mesenchyme-epithelial cell interactions, changing the time the hair is growing, the dermal papilla size and the dermal papilla cell, keratinocyte and melanocyte activity.”

What it means:

Little chemicals, called androgens, affect the speed at which hair divides and multiplies and what colour a beard will be. Everyone has slightly different androgens, so everyone’s beard speed and colour is completely beautifully unique.

Fashions in Shaving and Trimming of the Beard: The Men of the Illustrated London News, 1842-1972; Dwight E. Robinson (American Journal of SociologyMarch 1976, pp. 1133-1141

What it says:

The author took a head count of every man featured in the Illustrated London News for 130 years and noted how many had facial hair and what kind they had:

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 21.36.22 Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 21.36.28 Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 21.36.38

What it means:

The lines are the five-year averages, the dots are the individual years over time, where 1842 is on the far left and 1972 on the far right. See how many dots there are outside the average line? That’s because so many hirsute men love their facial hair no matter what’s fashionable and what everyone else is doing. YOU SO BOLD, MEN.

Negative frequency-dependent preferences and variation in male facial hair; Zinnia J. Janif, Robert C. Brooks and Barnaby J. Dixson (Biology Letters, April 2014, pp. 1-4)

What it says:

Uh-oh, it’s the article that started the whole peak beard debacle. After close analysis, this is one of the choice phrases that stood out:

“Women preferred light stubble in one study, heavy stubble in another and clean-shaven, light stubble and heavy stubble equally over full beards in a third study.”

What it means:

Somewhere there’s a stubble lovin’ gal or guy for every beard, no matter how big or small.


The Renaissance Beard: Masculinity in Early Modern England; Will Fisher (Renaissance Quarterly, Spring 2001, pp. 155-187)

What it says:

“It is difficult to tell if the use of prosthetic beards in the Oxford performance (of plays) is representative of the English stage practice in general, when all of these documents about beards are seen in conjunction with one another…it become apparent that there was a lively market for, and traffic in, false beards.”

What it means:

The Renaissance population loved acting with and wearing false beards and there may quite possibly have been a black market in false beards. In another part of the article, he mentions what a beard fan Shakespeare was – beards are explicitly mentioned in all but four of his plays, with well over 20 references in As You Like It alone.

Raphael and the Beard of Pope Julius II; Mark J. Zucker (The Art Bulletin, December 1977, pp. 524-533)

What it says:

“Prejudices against ecclesiastical beards, still very much in force at the time of Julius’ pontificate, originated at least as early as the ninth century, when in the Great Schism East and West disputed, among other matters, the question of whether or not to shave.”

What it means:

Julius chose to have a beard while he was Pope despite the preceding 400 years of staunch beard criticism (Julius II was Pope 1443-1513) and put facial hair on the agenda for discussions between the two sides of the church.

Lost – one papal beard. Via

Bearded Women in Early Modern England; Mark Albert Johnston (Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Winter 2007, pp. 1-28)

What it says:

“The female “beard below” does not threaten notions of male erotic and economic primacy: rather, it confirms them by remaining discreetly hidden in a subordinate position relative to the male facial beard and by being complicit with patriarchal economic strategies such as patrilineal inheritance through the production of heirs.”

What it means:

The male facial beard isn’t the only beard woven with sexual politics.

Rust-coloured bearded (erignathus barbatus) and ringed (phoca hispida) seals from Svalbard, Norway; Christian Lydersen, Kit M. Kovacs and Espen Lydersern (Journal of Mammology, February 2001, pp. 225-230

What it says:

“The higher incidence of rust-coloured bearded seals, compared with ringed seals, is explained by the greater dependence of the former species on benthic prey items.”

What it means:

If you’re a sea-loving mammal and you want a beautiful ginger hued beard, you gotta dig deep. To the very bottom of the ocean, actually.

Symbolic Meanings of Facial Hair in the Middle Ages; Robert Bartlett (Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 1994, pp. 43-60)

What it says:

“Those theorists who see hair treatment as primarily sexually expressive would argue that the social visibility of head and facial hair is a prerequisite for its effective role as an open bearer of biological information.”

What it means:

Your beard says more about you than you know. Your favourite pizza topping, where you want to get married, how long ago your last shower was. It’s all there.

Giants, boar-hunts and barbering: masculinity in Culhwch ac Olwen; Sarah Sheehan (Arthuriana, Fall 2005, pp. 3-25)

What it says:

“Close attention to the barbering theme as it unfolds through the story reveals shifts in tone which suggest that medieval Welsh attitudes towards masculinity were complex and ambivalent.”

What it means:

In medieval Wales, the barber’s was like the pub down the road – men shared stories, formed bonds and compared beard styling tips.

The Beard Movement in Victorian Britain; Christopher Oldstone-Moore (Victorian Studies, 2005, pp. 7-34)

What it says:

“There is little evidence that expenses associated either with shaving or maintaining beards determined style changes or differences between the classes. Indeed, it is a remarkable feature of the Victorian era that beards were just as popular with working-class men as they were with middle-class or aristocratic men.”

What it means:

Beards are like McDonald’s or a really big hug – they don’t care how much you earn, how bad you smell or how your day was. They just want to be there for you, whoever you are, whenever you need them.

*I read 15.

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Podcast: Bearded London’s History of the Beard

I know it may seem like we’re going on like a broken record of late, but the whole ‘peak beard‘ phenomenon caused quite a worry in the Bearded London ranks.

But don’t worry our fuzzy faced friends, we’ve disproved this ‘report’ in the name of science with our own, Bearded London style, investigation.

Now, we bring you some content that you’ve been (probably) chomping at the bit for. A podcast into the history of the beard, covering the furry timeline from the Ancient Greeks, right up to peakbeardgate 2k14.

So sit back, open your lugs holes, and listen to our comprehensive (and short) history of the beard.

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The Best Barber Shop in London

We asked you to vote and you obliged in your millions (438 of you to be precise!). It’s official. The best barbershop in London, as voted for by you dear reader, is…

 Rocket Barber Shop

After fighting off some stiff competition, and surging ahead of second placed Huckle the Barber, our friends from Rocket have been crowned the kings of London’s Barber Shops. As you can see, they were looking forward to the outcome:

The barbershop in Hackney are a firm favourite amongst our readers and also at Bearded London HQ. Not only did we live blog their bearded bar this Sunday, but head honcho Steve has also been one of our ‘beard lovers‘ and also had some advice for those common beard problems.

They were delighted with the outcome:

As were some of their customers:

Huckle the Barber

Despite being pipped to the post after initially leading the poll, our friends at Huckle the Barber were gracious in defeat:

The Shoreditch barbershop, which has also been featured in our ‘beard lovers‘ series, ended up with 29% of the vote, and still have some big fans despite the result of our poll:

The best of the rest

Although Rocket and Huckle pretty much dominated our poll, it would only be fair to list the final results of our Top 10 Barbershops in London:


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10 foods to avoid when you’ve got a beard

It’s the May Day bank holiday Monday! The day that we rejoice because easter was not too long ago, we get another four day week and another day off just for the hell of it. The sun is set to be in the sky, but hold your horses. Before you head for that BBQ with its reggae reggae sauce slathered wings, check out our 10 foods to avoid when you’ve got a beard. You’ll thank us later…

1. Chicken wings



Yeah they’re looking at your from across the BBQ, but hold fire. If you eat one of these guys, you’re probably going to be getting the marinade out of you beard until the next bank holiday. Say no to the wings and choose something else. You don’t make friends with salad, but your friends might not want to hang around with you if you’ve got chicken dripping off your face.

Avoid factor: 6/10

2. Corn on the cob



These guys will also be looking at you suggestively from across the table. Although pretty darn tasty, not only will you be left with bits of corn between your teeth, but there’s also the risk that butter could turn your pristine beard into a greasy bush.

Avoid factor: 7/10

3. Hamburger

You’ve made it past the chicken wings and the corn, but a BBQ isn’t a BBQ without a nice juicy burger is it?! A word of warning from us: the burger poses multiple problems. Even if you get past the meaty fluids of your patty, you’ll do well to get away without getting any ketchup around your mush.

Avoid factor: 5/10

4. Burritos



Take your time over these guys. The numerous loose components of a burrito make them a tricky obstacle to manoeuvre. Even if you get the meat in your mouth, you could end up with sour cream squirting everywhere, salsa falling down your front and the guac. Oh god the guacamole!

Avoid factor: 8/10

5. Pizza



One word. Grease. Two words. Hot cheese. One word. Mess. That is all.

Avoid factor: 7/10

6. Soup



These hot broths are probably not going to be on a menu this bank holiday, but bear our advice in mind for the colder months. Unless you have terrible hand eye coordination, the only part of your beard the soup will come into contact with is your moustache. Our advice: open your mouth wide.

Avoid factor: 4/10

7. Ice cream

Now we’re talking. We’re onto the best bit of the meal. Dessert. Like the soup, the only part of your facial hair the delicious iced cream should come into contact with is your top lip. All we’re going to say is, if you don’t clean off the debris fast, you’ll end up with sour milk on your face and no one will come near you.

Avoid factor: 7/10

8. Popcorn



Getting those little bits of corn that haven’t quite popped (aka kernels) stuck in your teeth is bad enough. Imagine this and multiply it by 10. The hot butter from the sweet or salty (we have no preference here!) popcorn is going to drip into your beard and your going to be back to corn-on-the-cob-gate all over again. If you have a beard, just stay away from corn-based products.

Avoid factor: 8/10

9. Doughnuts



Homer Simpson has a bit of a beard going on and he gets away with eating these bad boys no problem. He is also a cartoon. Unfortunately, IRL, that pink icing will leave your beard looking very feminine (not that that’s a problem!) and you’ll be finding sprinkles for days.

Avoid factor: 6/10

10. Anything with syrup



Demba Ba loves the stuff. But then again, Demba Ba doesn’t have a beard. This stuff is like super glue. If you’re running low on adhesive then give this stuff a go. Avoid putting it in your beard at all costs, unless you’re intending to cut it off. And why would you want to do that?!

Avoid factor: 10/10 (does this thing go up to 11?!)


Demba Ba loves syrup via

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Poll: Have we reached ‘peak beard’?

peak beard poll

We brought you news that we had apparently reached ‘peak beard’ – where the number of gentleman supporting beards has reached its capacity, and the facial haired fellow will soon go the way of the Dodo, retreating to the doldrums alongside the yoyo’s and Johnny Borrells of this world.

Not only did we bring you this news, but we also disproved the study with our very own Bearded London certified version, carried out on the streets of Shoreditch last week.

Now that the dust has settled, we want to put this matter to bed once and for all. Have we reached peak beard or is this all just a load of mumbo-jumbo?

Poll: Have we reached ‘peak beard’?


You can also tweet us your thoughts @beardedlondon using either #yes or #no. Speak up, vote and let your voices be heard. No one wants to be Johnny Borrell.

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VIDEO: Bearded Eurovision Song Contest

Ever wondered how the Eurovision would play out if the countries of Europe based their voting on facial hair, not on who their neighbours or best friends are? We wondered that too. So, in anticipation of next Saturday’s Eurovision final, we trawled through European leaders, found the best contenders, photoshopped their faces onto flags and judged them all to a cheesy Europop number. Like the real Eurovision, it’s long. Unlike Eurovision, it won’t make you to turn to drink or party games to survive the night.

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LIVEBLOG: Rocket Barber Shop’s Beard Bar

We wandered down to Rocket Barber Shop‘s ‘Beard Bar’ and liveblogged all the glorious specimens that came through the doors. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. Scroll down for all our posts from the day.

14.13pm: Our final post for the day! Thanks to Jordan for posing for the before and after photos below. And MANY thanks to Steve and Rocket Barber Shop for letting us invade their Beard Bar. They do this every two weeks – you can find more information about the shop right here. Bearded and out.

Jordan, Before and After





13.42pm: Jonathan’s beard is massive. He’s from France, but now lives in Bethnal Green. Bearded London are swooning. A lot.

Jonathan Jonathan 2

13.25pm: A quick cigarette break before Jonathan gets in the chair…


13.10pm: Jory’s before and after…

Jory Before and After



12.46pm: You can now watch the whole of Eamon’s beard-trim, which we livestreamed a little earlier, below!


Here’s the final product, isn’t it glorious?


Ohhhhh… myyy loveeee…. myyyy darrrlinnngggg

12.25pm: Watch Eamon get his beard trimmed live! LIKE RIGHT NOW

12.20pm: Here’s Aanand (30, from Haggerston) looking incredibly dapper, post-trimming.


12.04pm: This is Tal. He’s 36, originally from Israel and now resides near Broadway Market. Here’s his Beard Bar before and after…

Tal, Before and After



11.36am: Loving Ian’s tee… And the final bearded product!


Ian, Rocket Barber Shop


11.04am: We’re here and it’s a beautiful day! Beards coming soon. We will also be attempting to do a little live broadcasting from our new Bambuser account which you can find here. We’ll tweet when we give it a go. How exciting.

Remember you can find our twitter here.

Last time we came to Rocket we made a lovely video which you can watch below to refresh your memory.

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