Backward Glance: Decembeard – Beards
  • Wednesday 29 November 2017

Beards are enjoying widespread popularity with a renewed surge to prominence among Australian men.

The Sunshine Coast has had its fair share of beard growers over the years and this week we look back at the beards of days gone by.

In earlier times, primitive men grew a beard to keep their face warm and it also served as an intimidation factor during conflict.

Beards have been known to impress others as a symbol of wisdom or as a sign of masculinity.

During the Middle Ages, if a man touched another man’s beard it was considered offensive and was grounds for a duel.

In the early 1500s, men starched their beards and displayed all sorts of styles and lengths.

Henry VIII sported a full beard but there was a twist to the beard when he placed a tax on anyone growing a beard.

Queen Elizabeth I disliked beards and continued the beard taxation because of the dislike of a furry face.

Russia’s Peter the Great also applied a tax to demonstrate his appreciation of western culture.

The pendulum swung towards beard growth in about the mid-19th century when leading figures of the day adopted full beards demonstrating their leadership ability.

Leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Karl Marx and author Charles Dickens served as trend setters.

Abraham Lincoln’s style of beard was known as a “chin curtain” and became very popular.

The length of a beard was used to profile a suspicious character by the early Australian police force.

Australian outlaw Ned Kelly achieved notoriety as a bushranger when he and his gang killed three policemen in 1878.

He was captured two years later and in the photograph of the outlaw taken at Melbourne Goal days before he was executed, Ned was sporting a full beard, a moustache and short styled hair.

Today we see the type of beard Ned Kelly grew becoming more popular.

Those bushy beards require a high degree of maintenance and grooming and are known as Ned Kelly style.

By the beginning of the 20th century, beard growing had declined.

During World War I, growing beards was banned amongst soldiers of Allied Forces.

When the Great War ended the soldiers came home beardless and this trend continued until the end of World War II.

During the late 1950s, the beatnik generation appeared and the adoption of the beard was regarded as ‘hip’.

This was the time of Flower Power and during the early 1960s hippy beards flowed.

Following a decline in popularity for several decades, beards today are enjoying a renewed resurgence.

They are a fashion statement and most are manicured, though quite lengthy.

There has been a revival at the traditional barber shop where many male barbers now sport various styles of beard from Ned Kelly style to perhaps the “chin curtain” for some.

The trendy barber and barber shop can be seen in most towns throughout the Coast.

Some of the beards of excellence here on the Coast from times gone by are exemplified by the great explorer William Landsborough of Loch Lamerough Golden Beach.

Pioneer John Maltman, of Glenview, was a chemist from Scotland before he left for Australia by boat and settled first at Tewantin before moving to Glenview.

He made soap in Glenview and there is an area known as the “Soap Hole:” near where he and his large family lived in the late 1800s.

Perhaps due to the lush type of beard he sported, the soap he made could have been the secret of the beard’s success. There is nothing to document this theory.

In the early 1900s, Nambour’s Daniel Currie’s beard was neatly trimmed. However in images, his moustache certainly covers a large proportion of his face.

Another Daniel was early settler Daniel Cahill, of Peachester, who displays a very handsome face with a Ned Kelly type beard and short styled hair.

James Low one of the first three selectors in the Maroochy district displays a very tidy beard and moustache in his photograph.

The image of Sawmill proprietor William Pettigrew and his staff at Potts Point Maroochydore is definitely the winner in the early pioneer stakes of beard growers.

A modern day beard is worn by Ryan, one of Sunshine Coast Libraries long-term Maroochydore Library staff and resident children’s storytellers.

Ryan has a beard to be proud of in the beard growing stakes. He has been growing his beard for nearly a year.

One of the most popular beards belongs to the jolly fellow we know as Santa Claus and it won’t be long before we see his silver beard.

Hopefully he will have kept to the original style and certainly not the “chin curtain”.

Santa does not dye his beard or hair and is easily recognised by his red suit and silver hair and beard.

Keep a look out for him he will soon be coming to town.

This month is Decembeard in Australia.

Bowel Cancer Australia is encouraging men to grow beards and raise funds for this important cause during December.

The statistics are high.

One in 11 men will develop bowel cancer in their lifetime in Australia with bowel cancer affecting men of all ages.

Already a face fur connoisseur? Challenge your mates and raise money for this important cause.

Thanks to Sunshine Coast Council’s Heritage Library Officers for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images.

In 2017, we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Naming of the Sunshine Coast. For more information on this milestone anniversary visitwww.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au/fifty

Image captions:
Hero image: Daniel Currie, ca 1905. A member of Caboolture Divisional Board and father of John Currie, well known in Nambour and a member of Maroochy Divisional Board

Carousel Images:
Image 1: John Maltman with his wife Leticia Rose Maltman (nee: Mullholland) and children, Glenview, ca 1876. The Maltman family settled in the Glenview-Mololoolah after living for many years at Tewantin and then in Brisbane, where John Maltman became a soap maker. He continued soap making in Glenview. He died in 1917 aged 84.
Image 2: Francis (Frank) Murtagh, (1856 - 1925) early settler of Nambour. Murtagh moved to Nambour in 1884 and became involved in a number of local organisations. He was appointed Cane Inspector at Moreton Mill in 1897 and in 1907 he was elected to the Board of Directors
Image 3: Daniel Kendall Cahill, early settler, Peachester, ca 1895.