An unexpected result of General Balbo’s flight to America is that women in the United States are reported to have “fallen for his beard.”
It would be strange if the United states, whose men are so generally clean-shaven, should now, under the influence of its women-folk, lead the way in a return to the cult of the beard.
Yet there seems to be in all civilised countries a mysterious ebb and flow of hair on the masculine-face.
Our own remote ancestors wore beards till William the Conqueror compelled them to shave, and the fashion of the beard was not revived again till the days of the Tudors.
In many shapes the beard remained in favour up to the reign of James II., when the shaven face again had its turn and remained in vogue throughout the Georgian period and beyond.
Our next real revival of beards followed the Crimean War, perhaps by infection from the Russians. When the army, led by the Hussars and Household Cavalry, started to sport both moustache and beard there began a general abandonment of the razor.
But that facial change on the part of the men was not accepted by the women of the period without protest.
The clean shaving of the present day is generally dated from the beginning of the century, when the American practice was widely followed throughout Europe.
How to access the Guardian and Observer digital archive.