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Once the favoured accessory of weathered fishermen and chin-stroking academics, the beard has had a revival in fortunes of late – and no more so than in London.
New research warns we may have reached ‘peak beard’ – but you just try telling that to East London, where the ‘hipster’ beard reigns supreme. London’s finest fuzz was even captured by photographer Jonathan Daniel Pryce in his blog-turned-book 100Beards.
We look back at some of the beard’s most famous moments in London history and culture…
The UK’s most beard friendly pub
The Cock Tavern in Hackney was recently crowned the most beard-friendly UK pub 2014. It was selected in an online poll organised by The Beard Liberation Front. It’s also where the British Beard Club hold their meetings – although that might be more to do with the pub’s great range beers from different micro-breweries – including its own.
Henry VIII’s Beard Tax
Everyone’s favourite head-chopping king, Henry VIII, is said to have introduced a ‘beard tax’ in 1535 – despite having one himself. Walk in the king’s footsteps at his stunning former home, Hampton Court Palace.
A bearded escape at the Tower of London
On the eve of his execution in 1716, Lord Nithsdale staged a daring escape from the Tower of London. His wife and two of her friends smuggled in a set of women’s clothes and managed to sneak out the prisoner disguised as one of them – even though he hadn’t had time to shave his long beard. Visit the Tower of London for a glimpse of the site where the Lieutenant’s Lodgings (where the Lord was held) once stood – next to what is now the Queen’s House.
Weird Beard Brewery
West London brewers Weird Beard Brew Co (“all beard, no sandals”) concoct fantastically named beers like American IPA Five O’Clock Shadow, K*ntish Town Beard and Black Perle. Give them a taste for yourself at the Craft Beer Co in Covent Garden or The Harp near Charing Cross, which regularly stock Weird Beard Brews – just two of many other pubs and bars across London to do so.
Margaret Thatcher’s fear of beards
Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had a thing against facial hair and famously declared “I wouldn’t tolerate any minister of mine wearing a beard”. See where the Iron Lady once lived by peering through the imposing gates of Downing Street.
The Beard of the Great Sphinx at the British Museum
The Great Sphinx is one of the most iconic sights of ancient Egypt – and the British Museum has a piece of this massive sculpture: specifically a fragment of its beard. It dates back to about 1500-1295 BC – possibly even further back – and was excavated at Giza in 1817. See it for yourself in Room 4 at the British Museum.
To Beard or Not to Beard at Selfridges
The latest window display at Selfridges cheekily picks up on the beard/no beard debate. Titled To Beard Or Not To Beard, it features a recreated barber’s shop – with all the trimmings. Step inside and you’ll find an actual barber’s shop – a collaboration between the people behind Return of the Rudeboy (an upcoming exhibition at Somerset House), top hairdresser Johnnie Sapong and Soho salon We Are Cuts – snipping beards into shape until 12 June.