The many styles of facial hair…

About 25 years ago (B.C. – “before children;” as opposed to A.D. – “after dependents”), my wife and I took a long vacation with another couple to Alaska.  I won’t bore you with the incredible details, but if you ever get a chance to go – do!  The other husband and I decided to grow out beards in keeping with the trip’s theme of hitting the back country, and soon after returning, and upon my wife’s insistence, I shaved off my hairy deportment, never to grow it out again.  Until recently, that is.  It was one of those torpid weekends and I had neglected my circadian routine of a close shave, and when Monday morning arrived, I continued in the same vein.  And now I am once again sporting a perpetual four-day growth.

All this is just my way of introducing today’s “There’s a Word for That” for the letter B.  Today’s word is barbula and is defined as a small beard grown just below the lip, extending down to the upper part of the chin.  You see a lot of guys sporting this beard style these days and mistakenly calling it a soul patch.  Technically speaking, and this is without any authoritative source to back me up, a soul patch is a very small patch of hair grown just below the lower lip.  A barbula typically extends further down and across the area below the mouth.  The soul patch is a term that comes out of the 1950s and was originally popular with jazz trumpet musicians because of the comfort it provided when using the mouthpiece, but soon the style was adopted by beatniks and artists and is still associated with having a literary or musical bent.  Barbula comes to us from the word barbule, being that part of an armored helmet that protects the cheeks and chin.

There are a numBeardber of styles of beards that have their own names, and in fact the art of growing and trimming a beard has its own term – pogonotrophy.  A common style is the Van Dyke, a mustache that extends down to fully cover the area below the mouth and around the chin.  This style has been popular since its naming for the 17th century Flemish artist.  Often the mustache is long and curled at the ends.  When the beard is trimmed to a distinct point below the chin, it is more appropriately called a pike devant – think Three Musketeers.  Take away the mustache and you are left with a goatee.  The goatee has been around since ancient times where it was often used when depicting the god Pan.  The Christians appropriated the style and applied it in paintings of Satan during the medieval and Renaissance periods.  The practice has been extended to this day.  My favorite is Robert De Niro in Angel Heart who sported a very full goatee while playing the character Lew Cyphre (get it?  Lucifer)

Extending the barbula even further down to cover the chin, and you end up with a royale.  Take the classic Van Dyke and trim off the area below the mustache that connects the mustache with area below the mouth and you’re left with an imperial.  Take a goatee and extend the lower ends up the jawline about half-way towards the earlobes and you have a balbo.  An anchor combines elements of the goatee and balbo; it’s a thin strip that flows from just below the lower lip to the base of the chin, and then extends in a thin line up the jawline to meet the sideburns.

And what discussion about beards would be complete without mentioning sideburns; those hair extensions in front of the ears corruptly named for the Civil War general Ambrose Burnside whose extremely odd looking style of long, bushy sideburns that extended down the face to connect with an equally bushy mustache, but having a clean-shaven chin?  Trim off Mr. Burnside’s mustache and the remaining bushy sideburns are call muttonchops or alternately, dundrearies, an eponym named for a character in Tom Taylor’s Our American Cousin, best known as the play being attended by Abraham Lincoln the night he was assassinated.  And for those keeping record, Lincoln wore a goatee.

As long as there are sharp razors and good imaginations, men will be coming up with new ways to sport their beards and we will be right here to note any new words that might appear.


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  1. #1 by Mike Taylor on May 1, 2014 - 11:46 am

    Absolutely fascinating article. I’m glad I found your site. I think I’ll be coming back for more soon.

  2. #2 by rory on August 24, 2013 - 1:45 am

    Looking for ahead of time to reading through extra within you in a while!? Im typically to blogging and site-building and i truly respect your articles.

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