Framing the Face

Etching by G. Cruikshank
Wellcome Library, London

Framing the Face: New perspectives on the history of facial hair

Framing the Face: New perspectives on the history of facial hair

One-day Workshop
28th November 2015

Endsleigh Room E
Friends Meeting House, Euston Road
London NW1 2BJ

Sponsored by the Wellcome Trust and the University of Hertfordshire
Guest Speaker: Dr Margaret Pelling, University of Oxford

Workshop programme

Workshop website

Online registration and payment

Over 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. To promote research on this issue we will be hosting a one-day workshop in London.

For further information please contact the organisers

Dr Alun Withey, University of Exeter

Dr Jennifer Evans, University of Hertfordshire