Did Vikings Have Beards

Did Vikings have beards? A guide to Viking beards

Did Vikings have beards, and what exactly did they look like? There are many common features associated with the Vikings today, from rippling muscles to fierce war paint. However, the beard is often the first thing people picture when they imagine a Viking. 

In popular culture, Viking males are almost constantly portrayed with either long, flowing beards, or facial hair carefully braided into a specific design. But as we know, modern depictions of Vikings aren’t always as accurate as they appear.

Many scholars have discovered Vikings weren’t the towering, unwashed, and terrifying people they’re depicted to be in some movies and television shows. However, the odds are many of the male Vikings did have a beard.

Here’s what you need to know about Viking beards…

Did Vikings actually have beards?

Beards were a lot more common in the early ages of human civilization than they are today. One of the reasons for this is people simply didn’t have access to the grooming tools we have today.

Although there were solutions for shaving a beard, they were often a lot less efficient. What’s more, many men didn’t have the time, or desire to work on shaving.

For the Vikings, a beard wasn’t necessarily a sign of laziness. In fact, many Vikings considered beards to be a depiction of masculinity and strength.

Many Norse gods are depicted as having beards, from Odin, to Thor. So, it only makes sense Vikings would consider facial hair to be a positive thing.

Many experts believe facial hair was relatively common among Nordic men in the days of the Vikings. Indeed, various tools, including combs for both a Vikings beard and hair have been discovered in archaeological digs throughout the years.

This leads us to the belief that many Viking men did have beards — although they may have come in a variety of shapes and styles.

Did Vikings Have Beards

Did all Vikings have beards?

It’s impossible to answer for certain whether all Viking males had beards or not. Ultimately, there’s a good chance many Viking warriors did have their own beard. Not only was the beard considered a stylish accessory by Viking men, but it was relatively practical too.

In the harsh winters of Scandinavia, a little extra facial hair might have offered extra warmth to the Vikings.

According to pictures and resources we have depicting Vikings over the centuries, it seems likely many did possess beards. Viking beards weren’t necessarily long or bushy, however. They came in various styles, and were often well-groomed, thanks to the Viking’s strong sense of vanity.

It was also relatively common for some Norsemen to earn nicknames related to the appearance of their beard. For instance, people could be called “Silk Beard” or “Long Beard”.

One of the most famous beard-related Viking names belonged to Sweyn Forkbeard, the son of the Harald Bluetooth, a Danish king.

What did Viking beards look like?

So, we know the answer to: “Did Vikings have beards” is probably yes — but what did they look like?

Since hair can’t stand the test of time, most of what we know about Viking beards comes not from archaeological digs, but written reports, paintings, and similar resources collected throughout history.

Many depictions and descriptions of Vikings do describe them as having beards. Even some Old Norse mythology has descriptions of gods with beards.

There were potentially a range of facial hair options for Vikings in their time, thanks to the wide range of tools they crafted to look after their appearance. Some Vikings may have had shorter, trimmed beards or goatees, while others had longer, flowing beards.

It may have also been common for Vikings to wear their beards in braids, to help keep them out of the way during battle. There have been various accessories found at Viking burial sites which may have been threaded into the beards of Viking men.

Researchers believe, whatever Viking beards looked like, they were likely to be a lot more well-kept than the beards of other men in the Middle Ages.

Viking beards were likely to be light in color, due to the use of lye soap capable of bleaching the hair of Norse warriors. Scientists also believe they were extremely well-groomed, as Vikings regularly combed and brushed their beards, getting rid of knots and debris.

Did Vikings Have Beards

Why did Vikings grow their beards?

As mentioned above, there are likely to be many reasons why Viking beards were popular throughout the Middle Ages. Vikings were big believers in showcasing their masculinity and warrior spirit.

They may have believed the presence of a long beard showed their high level of manliness and testosterone.

In some cases, braiding a beard or wearing accessories within a beard might have also been a way for Viking men to demonstrate their status to others in their community. A more attractive beard and overall appearance would often help to distinguish Viking leaders from their troop.

Many Norse sagas also make references to beards and the unique attributes they may possess. In some Norse tales, beards are described as signs of incredible masculinity, strength, and virtue.

Alternatively, the lack of a beard was often used to represent cowardice.

For the Vikings, a beard may have also been a way to pay homage to the gods. Virtually all of the male gods in Norse mythology had magnificent beards.

Odin was characterized not just by his one missing eye and his ravens, but also a long, flowing beard. Thor was described as having thick red hair, and a robust, voluminous beard.

Alternatively, the trickster god Loki is one of the few in Norse mythology who is described as not having a beard. This might have been a way for the Norse people to distinguish him as being a less trustworthy, and often malicious character.

How long did it take Vikings to grow beards?

So, how did Vikings grow beards?

Ultimately, the same as everyone else. There’s no clear insight from Viking history into how long it took for a Viking to grow a beard. The chances are, just like modern men today, different Vikings had more trouble growing their facial hair than others.

However, some scientists believe men in the middle ages might have had higher levels of testosterone than we do today. This could have allowed men to grow beards thicker, and faster than we do now.

While we don’t have evidence of how quickly or long most Viking beards grew, we do know they were likely to be extremely well groomed.

Historians are convinced Vikings had a strong sense of personal hygiene, thanks to the various grooming items discovered throughout burial sites. Archaeologists have found everything from combs and toothpicks, to picks and tweezers over the years.

They have also found evidence of soap which indicate Vikings took regular baths.

The chances are Vikings took just as much care with their beards as they did with the hair on their heads. Many may have even used lye soap to bleach their beards blonde, as lighter colored hair was often popular among the Norse people at the time.

The presence of beads at Viking burial sites and other decorative items also indicates Vikings might have braided various objects into their beards to make them more attractive.

Understanding Viking beards

So, did Vikings have beards? The evidence suggests the answer is probably yes. Beards might have been a symbol of status and masculinity for the Viking people, if the Norse sagas and mythology are anything to go by.

At the same time, these beards were likely to have been more attractive and well-groomed than many of the other beards of the middle ages.

Vikings were well-known for looking after their appearance using soap and combs, and many regularly braided their beards and used beads to keep them in place. The use of braids may have been an excellent way to keep loose hair from flying around during battle.

While beards might not be the only defining factor of the Vikings, they’re something we commonly associate with these old Norse warriors — and for good reason.

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