How Old-Timey Medicine Gave Us the Modern Beard

Beards are super popular — too popular for their own good, some have argued — but here’s some follicular history about why men started growing beards in modern(ish) times:

It seems that in the mid-19th century, doctors encouraged men to grow protective facial hair for the sake of their health, according to medical historian Alan Wuthey (h/t Business Insider):

The Victorian obsession with air quality saw the beard promoted as a sort of filter. A thick beard, it was reasoned, would capture the impurities before they could get inside the body. Others saw it as a means of relaxing the throat, especially for those whose work involved public speaking. Some doctors were even recommending that men grew [sic] beards to avoid sore throats.

As BI’s Lauren Friedman points out, this may have been exactly wrong: Researchers think beards might actually be hairy old infection-trappers, perfect for breeding “disease-carrying ectoparasites,” as one recent study put it.

Who would have thought the Victorians would have had backwards beliefs about medicine?