Historical Beard Taxes, or Why Today Isn’t So Bad
Tax day is just about done, and we thought we’d take a quick trip down memory lane and look at historical beard taxes.
First up, there’s Henry VIII, who wore a close cropped beard for apparently the whole of his reign. But curiously, in 1535, he instituted a beard tax. No one quite knows why, and some speculate that he was bothered by the fact that his mustache wasn’t as prodigious as others. Did the king really discourage beards because he wanted to have the best one? That’s doubtful.
We think it’s more likely that Henry (and later his daughter Elizabeth I) taxed beards for the same reason they taxed everything else: the government needs money.
Information on this tax is a bit scanty, but the Sheriff of Canterbury apparently had to pay 3 shillings 4 pence, which in a rough calculation works out to about $132 today. But it adds up!
Next we have Peter the Great’s beard tax of 1698. Much as Ataturk would later do in Turkey, Peter was trying to force Russia into step with the “modern” world of Europe, and thought that to do that, one needed to wear the fashions of Europe. This meant both shaving beards, which were traditionally worn by Russian men, and banning traditional Russian clothing in favor of suits and ties (we guess—we didn’t look up the dress code).
In actual practice, only the upper classes were affected, though peasants were charged if they wished to enter the capital in a beard. The weirdest part is that Peter would personally shave people’s beards. Or maybe the weirdest part is that if you paid the tax, you’d get a token coin that called your beard a “useless burden,” and that you could show to prove you’ve paid the fee.
The cost varied, but could go up to 100 roubles. Since a rouble was about 38 grams of silver at this time, we can estimate that your beard tax might have cost you a whopping $1,500 today.
So happy tax day, everyone. Be glad you didn’t have to pay any tax on your whiskers, and instead treat ’em right with some products that clean, condition, and control the wildest manes. We’ve got everything you need, whatever style of facial hair you have. From those first growing pains, to keeping fuller growth manageable and smelling great, we’ve been making the products you need since 2005.
Filed under: Beards in History