London :A British university academic is embarking upon a three-year study of the history of beards, its relationship with masculinity and health.
Dr Alun Withey from the University of Exeter, an expert in medical history, will look at facial hair between 1700 and 1918 and its relationship with masculinity and health, as well as the changes in shaving technology.
Despite a prediction in 2014 that ‘peak beard’ had been reached, its popularity continues.
It is believed to be the first academic study of facial hair over the period from 1700 to 1918, the BBC reported.
He said: “We can see facial hair not as some quirky irrelevance in history, but as a unique way of understanding the body, health, medicine and masculinity in the past.”
The project, funded by the Wellcome Trust, will examine how beard grooming has evolved from being a medical procedure carried out by a barber surgeon.
Withey said claims of beards being dirty or unhygienic had been made for centuries.
“These sorts of stories highlight our continuing fascination with facial hair, and the different looks which can often come to define an age,” he said.