The Beard’s Role in Counterculture Movements

It seems that anytime we have a massive movement of some kind, the beard closely follows behind. The movements could come from the peace-loving crew with flowers in their hair to the gun toting revolutionaries of some burgeoning nation-state.

Like any good ideology or philosophy, it is refashioned time and time again to meet some loftier higher ideal. The beard is no exception. While you might not give much thought to your political inclinations as your beard grows, others once did.

We’ll look at a brief snippet of time through the early to mid 20th century and the beard’s prominence in social and cultural movements.

Creative Revival

The early 20th century was a time of upheaval and some of the worst wars the world had ever seen, hence World I and II. The many men that came back from these wars choose to keep up the clean-shaven style.

It was not the norm to have facial hair, at least not in western culture. There is a curious link between a few intellectual movements of the early to mid 20th century. The beard was a silent conjoiner of each subsequent movement.

We’ll first start with the Lost generation. The name coined by our very own beardsman Ernest Hemingway. While this group of artists, novelists and also a general term for a generation had minimal beards, Hemingway was a major exception.

A few of these seekers influenced the following counterculture forces, namely the Beat Generation and movements of the 1960s.

Beatniks

The last thing people think about the 1950s is a bunch of “tea” shop dwelling poets and free thinking group of seekers. It’s a time designated in cultural memory as a clean cut, square culture, as the outliers would have called it back then.

The progenitors of the 1960s counter culture were the Beats. Beat poets, novelists, seekers and everyone in between. Renown literary genius Allen Ginsberg, is our beard figure head for this era. He was the crucial link between the beats in the 1950s and “Hippies” and other social forces in the 1960s.

ginsberg

What Ginsberg lacked on the top of his head, he made up for with his wild burly beard. The mass of curls was a signature look of his. It was also indicative of the crazy time they were living in.

While many Beat poets went with the soul patch, Ginsberg broke the mold into bearded paradise. Eventually, Ginsberg would become the transitional line into becoming a Hippie Elder himself by befriending Timothy Leary.

Hippies of the 60s

The 1960s was a point in time where the beard hit critical mass. By the end of the 1960s, the beard shed its counterculture alliance and became that of the mainstream culture. Before, we look at this foregone conclusion you’ll have to look in wonder at how important the beard was in this era.

Take for example the Beatles. They were the innocent family friendly band on your brand new television screen! Oh boy just look at them in all their good old fashioned decency. I want to hold your hand. Now Shelly, those are the type of boys that could take our little Susie out.

Beatles Squares .jpg
Squares

Let’s just forget about The Beatles musical upbringing in the red light districts of Germany right now. Their transformation throughout the 1960s was unprecedented. Both their looks and music drastically changed throughout the decade. The last years of the 1960s would usher in the Beatles fully embracing their newfound psychadelia role in music and culture.

Beatles Beard.jpg

Revolutionaries & Creatives

The beard is a great exterior force of change begot from some inner new mindset. The Beatles was a great example of the 1960s. Almost every major figure during this time, be it a philosopher, scientist, musician or what have you had a beard.

Just look at that revolutionary guy, Che Guevara, plastered on some worldly 15 year old rebel’s shirt if you want to see the beards connection to counterculture. There was actually a name given to those Cuban revolutionaries. They called themselves Barbudos or bearded revolutionaries.

Other major figures of the era and beyond have used their beard to define them and their artistic pursuits. You’d be hard pressed to find a maniacal writer or introspective singer sans beard during this time.

Alan Watts.jpeg
Alan Watts 

The beard had an intrinsic connection to all of these movements. The views from the non-bearded masses were a mixed bag for a while. It’s fascinating how it influenced these areas and was seen as a metamorphosis of change for such powerful culturural icons.

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