Appel à communication : « Framing the Face: New perspectives on the history of facial hair » (Londres, novembre 2015)

Tommaso Garzoni, Le Barbier, 1641, gravure sur boisOver the past five centuries, facial hair has been central to debates about masculinity. Over time, changing views of masculinity, self-fashioning, the body, gender, sexuality and culture have all strongly influenced men’s decisions to wear, or not wear, facial hair. For British Tudor men, beards were a symbol of sexual maturity and prowess. Throughout the early modern period, debates also raged about the place of facial hair within a humoural medical framework. The eighteenth century, by contrast, saw beards as unrefined and uncouth; clean-shaven faces reflected enlightened values of neatness and elegance, and razors were linked to new technologies. Victorians conceived of facial hair in terms of the natural primacy of men, and new models of hirsute manliness.

All manner of other factors from religion to celebrity culture have intervened to shape decisions about facial hair and shaving.  And yet, despite a recent growth in interest in the subject, we still know little about the significance, context and meanings of beards and moustaches through time, or of its relationship to important factors such as medicine and medical practice, technology and shifting models of masculinity.

We therefore welcome papers related to, but by no means limited to the following questions:

  • To what extent were beards a symbol of masculinity and what key attributes of masculinity did they symbolise?
  • To what extent did the profession of the barber influence beard styles and the management of facial hair?
  • To what extent were beard trends led by the elite and by metropolitan fashion?
  • How far did provincial trends influence metropolitan trends through migration?
  • What impact did changing shaving technologies have on beard fashions/trends?
  • How were beards understood within the medical frameworks of different eras?
  • How have women responded to facial hair in different eras?
  • How has the display of facial hair by women been viewed as both a medical and cultural phenomena?
Please send abstracts of up to 300 words, by 30th September 2015, to
For further information please contact the organisers :
Dr Alun Withey, University of Exeter 
Dr Jennifer Evans, University of Hertfordshire

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