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religion beard

Whilst stars like Tom Selleck, Burt Reynolds & Borat are renowned for their mustaches, others stand out from the crowd because their tash is notably absent.  For instance, have you ever wondered why the Amish men wear long beards – but no moustache?  The answer may surprise you.

The Amish are a group of Christians in certain US states, such as Pennsylvania and Indiana, who live a very traditional & strict life. They are closely related to Mennonites, & are known for their exceedingly simple living practices; they farm the land, they dress plainly & in a very oldy schooly way, & they reject modern technologies. They learn English, but speak German within their communities. There are estimated to be two hundred thousand Amish people living in North America today.

The Amish movement in the United States dates back to the nineteenth century. At this time, military men were renowned for wearing elaborate moustaches. European Amish and Mennonites were frequently persecuted by the military. The Amish are a pacifist group – and did not wish to in any way be associated with the military. So they refused to wear a moustache.

As we know, beards are commonplace among Biblical males. As such, wearing a beard is almost essential for adult Amish men. Amish men are only allowed to stop shaving & grow their beard once they have married – &, in the tradition of their religion, are seen to have “become men”.

The Amish aren’t the only group who reject the moustache while growing the beard. Many Muslim men also grow a beard but shave or trim their moustache. The reason for this is that the Prophet dictated a law that men trim the moustache & let the beard grow out as a mark of their faith & as a differentiation from those who were not followers of Islam. The beard is seen as a symbol of holiness in the Islamic faith; though not all Muslim men choose to wear a full beard, & some do wear a moustache, many choose to shave their moustache but grow their beard strictly because it was decreed by the Prophet.

Additionally, in some traditions (India for example), the moustache is seen as a symbol of masculinity and ego; by removing the moustache, one symbolically removes their ego.

One thing I found interesting when doing research on this topic is how important facial hair is to religion more generally.  It’s hard to think of any religion that doesn’t have some formal and/or informal position on it. It’s curious how some body parts (like eye lashes & toe nails) generally get away scot free whilst others (like the beard) are subject to particular requirements. I’d love to dig deeper to figure out why this has been the case but that will probably be a subject for another post down the track. I suspect it may be because faces are so visually important to humans & the beard is a significant piece of facial real estate so it becomes a focus for religious view points.  Whatever the case may be, one thing is for sure – moustache wax won’t be a big seller in the Amish community!

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