Beards are so trendy and “in” that everyone from your local hipster barista, car dealer and cousin seem to be growing face gardens these days.
But for some cultures and religions, chin hair is no fashion statement: it's a sign of dedication and spirituality.
For thousands of years, males of different faiths have opted for the scruffy bushman’s look, neat and short fuzzy beards, and free flowing chin manes, all in the name of their god.
From manliness, spiritual energy and freedom, facial hair is a tradition that will never go out of style for these cultures.
“The beard symbolises God’s divine attributes of mercy and compassion. By growing a beard one taps into this spiritual energy and elicits this divine mercy upon oneself.“
Beards tap into spiritual energy – Judaism
Rabbi Yaakov Glasman, senior Rabbi of the St Kilda Hebrew Congregation tells SBS that the beard in Jewish faith is a mystical and spiritual expression of the soul.
“The beard symbolises God’s divine attributes of mercy and compassion. By growing a beard one taps into this spiritual energy and elicits this divine mercy upon oneself."
And hipsters? They’re about 4,000 years behind the times.
‘The rabbis set the trend centuries ago!” says Glasman.
Glasman says beards are based on the traditions and rituals in Judaism, including the Biblical prohibition of applying a razor to one’s face. The invention of the electric razor and its ability to not touch the skin means the modern day Jewish male has the choice to be clean-shaved and fresh faced.
Glasman himself prefers to keep things simple and traditional and maintains a beard, although there tends to be two varieties of Jewish beard.
“Those who follow the mystical and spiritual tradition won't groom their beards at all but may well tuck them neatly so they look presentable,” says Glasman.
“Others who don't follow the mystical element of Judaism may groom their beards to keep them short and trim.”
Beards are a sign of freedom and equality - Sikhism
The fifth largest religion in the world, Sikhism, Sikh males maintain a beard as a sign of freedom and respect to God.
“Historically, cutting one’s hair is a sign of slavery and calamitous situations, and the Sikhs have always promoted equality and challenged rituals and injustices in society,” says Jasbir Singh Suropada, chairperson of Sikh Interfaith Council of Victoria.
“Having a beard not only looks majestic and mane-like, but most importantly it provides a Sikh man with their identity. Sikhs consider the beard to be part of the nobility and dignity of their manhood. Sikhs also refrain from cutting their hair and beards out of respect for the God-given form.”
A typical Sikhism beard is one that is spontaneously grown and natural," he says.
“There is beauty in holding your own, and being confident in just that. Depending on circumstances and need to the situation some Sikhs tie up their beard neatly using hair gel or use a beard netting."
Beards are pure man (and sometimes married ones at that) – Amish
Donald Krillbill, author, lecturer and educator in Anabaptist faiths tells SBS the reasons Amish men grow beards are two-fold: in reference to the old testament where beards were worn as a sign of wisdom and godliness, and secondly as God’s intention during creation to make a distinction between man and women.
“A full length Amish beard is viewed as a symbol of wisdom, stature and respect and honour," says Krillbill. "The beard signifies that men are different from women, and especially in today’s transgender discussions it would reinforce the Amish mind that God intended clarity between men and women.”
“There is beauty in holding your own, and being confident in just that."
While younger men have a short and “silhouette” beard, as Amish males move into their thirties and forties they wear a fuller and longer beard.
Rather than just wearing a wedding ring, the beard of an Amish man can be also signal that he’s off the market.
“In some Amish communities the men begin wearing a beard at marriage. So, it some ways it becomes a symbol of becoming a ‘man’.”