One Thousand Beards: A Cultural History of Facial Hair Paperback – 1 Mar 2002
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The Hairy Truth Behind the Mustache, the Beard, the Goatee and the Sidebar; Every man has the capacity to grow facial hair, but the decision to do so has always come with many layers of meaning. Facial hair has traditionally marked a passage into manhood, but its various manifestations have been determined by class, religious belief, historical precedent, and occupational status. Beards have at one time or another come to represent wisdom, goodness, sorcery, diabolism, psychological depth, and revolution; they have been purchased, elaborately trimmed, adorned, and dyed, and deracinated as a form of torture. To this day, the act of displaying facial hair is regarded as a form of ultimate cool. With wit and insight, One Thousand Beards explores the historical meaning of beards, mustaches, sideburns, and other forms of facial hair, from Freud's psychoanalytic interpretation, to a wild trip through history, to a rogue's gallery of famous bearded or mustached men, including Abraham Lincoln, Joseph Stalin, Backstreet Boy A.J. McLean, and Yosemite Sam.
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Top Customer Reviews
Subtitled "A Cultural History of Beards", the big problem with this book is that it doesn't really know what it wants to be: Cultural History, Guidebook, Series of personal anecdotes and observations. Sadly, it fails to be any of these things successfully, largely as a result of the author attempting to be far too clever with his material.
Peterkin has an irritating writing style and a careless disregard for either "Cultural Studies" (which is how the book is categorised, according to the publisher) or his source material. The book is full of errors, some factual - such as the twice repeated assertion that the word "barbarism" is derived from the latin word for beard, when a glance at any etymology of the English language clearly states that it comes from the Greek for "babbler" - some typographic, and some which show a complete lack of understanding of the subject matter - such as describing King Edward II of England as "gay": a construct that was not invented until around the second half of the twentieth century.
The writing is peppered with "smart" asides - some relevant, most irrelevant - and personal anecdotes, though what grates most is the author's stomach-turning political correctness. His unwillingness to say anything that might offend makes any attempt at analysis worthless. (Dare I make a non-PC aside and say "typically Canadian"?)
One final point: the book twice makes reference to a 1955 publication "Beards - Their Social Standing, Religious Involvements, Decorative Possibilities and Value in Offence and Defence Through the Ages" by one Reginald Reynolds.Read more ›
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