*If one of the previously clean shaven men in your life is suddenly sporting a beard, chances are he’s joined the “Movember” movement. Those of us who’ve got it like that grow out our beards each November to show our support for a variety of men’s health causes.
Get it? “Men” + “November” = Movember.
But over a hundred years ago, men stopped shaving in November for a different reason: to prove they were old enough to vote!
According to a new book, The Virgin Vote: How Young Americans Made Democracy Social, Politics Personal, and Voting Popular in the Nineteenth Century, men grew their “facial foliage” to prove they were adults and not “beardless boys.”
According to the book’s author, Jon Grinspan, the significance of the original ritual was two-fold. For one thing, the very visual sign that a man was old enough to vote was a “cultural touchstone” and something that was particularly meaningful during this time, when voter motivation and turnout was generally high.
Wish we’d have seen a few more beards out last week, but I digress.
Also, Grinspan argues, the visible beard was a signal and reminder that not everyone in the late 1800s was allowed to vote, specifically women and black folks.
What’s not clear here is how that statement was made to African Americans, as I’ve been shaving since I was 11 years old, and MANY black friends and family members of mine are as hairy as the next white guy. Could it be that we’ve gotten more hirsute as interracial um…interactions became more widespread?
As Arsenio Hall used to say, things to make you go “hmmmm…”
At any rate, I thought you’d love some of the history behind the November beard thing!