The Bizarre Beard Tax

20th February 2018 — 20 Comments

Me as a wee bairn … and now … the height of fashion!

I have sported a beard for over 60 years and, watching the BAFTA’s the other day, realised that at last I was really ‘with it’. The beard has become something of a fashion accessory, sported by almost every male celebrity on the catwalk and hirsute hero on the high street. But storm clouds are looming.

Despite their current popularity, the beard remain deeply divisive. One British barber and businessman has suggested a radical proposal to discourage bearded faces, or at least make some money off the men who refuse to renounce them. He proposed a tax on the bushiest of beards and presented his proposal to the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne. Thank goodness, he’s now gone. I can imagine him implementing the new tax in his next budget speech. He’s not the first one to have had taken up this crazy idea.

A Russian beard token, signifying that the bearer of this coin has paid to look like that. (Photo: US State Department/Public Domain)

Claims that Henry VIII introduced a beard tax in 1535 (despite possessing his own set of well-groomed whiskers) have found their way into numerous books, blog posts, and (of course) Wikipedia, but the tale seems to be apocryphal.

So brilliant was Henry’s idea that it was followed on by his daughter Elizabeth I, who ordered anyone who had grown a beard for longer than two weeks needed to pay a duty and cough up to the government.

Peter the Great Beard Token

The tax was in place as a means of status, Henry VIII had a long beard and it was a sign of high social class that you could afford the luxury of paying for your facial hair. A similar tax was in place in Russia but for opposite reasons. In 1705, the Tsar saw beards as uncultured, so administered for a levy to encourage citizens not to grow them. If they resisted, they had to carry at all times a silver or copper coin saying ‘the beard tax has been taken’ on one side, and ‘the beard is a superfluous burden’ on the other. The beard tax was eventually abolished in 1772.

Free haircuts for a year to the first detectorist to discover a beard token … only joking … but I would like to see it



You can always depend upon my friend Brian Ridley to come up with something most suitable. Brian is very interested in trench art and has found this King George coin with improvised beard and stamped with my initials. How cool is that?



I never imagined that at nearly 77 I would be turning heads, but now that facial hair has become fashionable it has proven to be the case. Mrs John has just introduced me to a product called beard oil a product I didn’t want or ever considered buying!

I wasn’t convinced, but I now use beard oil as part of my grooming ritual even though a celebrated hairdresser once said, “Men should take care of their facial hair as much as they take care of the hair on their heads.” What did she know!

The real recommendation came when talking to my niece on Skype the other day and she commented on how sleek, shiny and well-groomed I was looking. Yes, beard oil has become a guilty pleasure … applying the stuff has become part of by daily regime. The scent is intoxicating … and Mrs John approves of the new me.


Some may say a man with a beard has something to hide. Some may say a bearded man is a lonely man. Let me tell you a law of the known universe. All great influential men had beards … after Robert Potter

List of Great Bearded Men: William Shakespeare, Ernest Hemingway, Jesus, Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin, Confucius, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, King George V, Vincent Van Gogh, John Winter, Albert Einstein, Che Guevara, Santa Claus, Dick Stout, King Leonidas, Zeus, Poseidon, W G Grace, Sophocles, Most notable Pirates … and so on.


Check out my mate Dick Stout in the States … wonder if uses beard oil? Perhaps not … he’s a Texan cowboy 🙂




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20 responses to The Bizarre Beard Tax

  1. Wow I looked at that list of people and couldn’t believe I was in the same company as John Winter. Feeling mighty tall now.

    • So you should be … especially after entering the Hall of Fame.

      I’m quite proud of my beard. I don’t say this in an arrogant way. What I mean is that I’m not ashamed of it.

  2. One hopes it’s not inflammable, what with every bijou hair acting as an eager wick… Good excuse for avoiding all those candles on your birthday cake, mind you… Cheers John!

  3. John from Ontario (AKA Geobound) 20th February 2018 at 1:55 AM

    You forgot to include Graham Norton and David O’Doherty in that list of “Great Bearded…….”, never mind, I may have got that one wrong! LOL…..

    I hadn’t heard of the beard tax before John, but it would be great to find a token like that.

  4. “bushiest of beards”… and just who will be the arbiter to decide that John!!!! LOL

    But in all, a good post.. and a tax I never would have thought would ever be considered…But governments do love their money.. and any way they can get it, they will


  5. When you think about it those of us that do shave are paying a reverse beard tax. Every time you buy shave cream, razors and blades you pay taxes on the purchase. In Canada we have PST, GST, HST and now the new CST…. the Clean Shave Tax!!!. Maybe we all should grow beards and save some money.
    A good hairy post John.


    • Canadian tax laws caught me out. I bought sweets in a store in NS and when I went to the checkout they asked for more money. I refused and caused a fuss … until it was pointed out that tax had been added … afterwards. As a Limey I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t included in the price when I bought them. You live and learn.

  6. I sent a little picture.
    The beard tax has been taken.

  7. Charles the 1st had one too and look what happened to him! 🙂

  8. Don’t mention Rolf Harris.

  9. great read John …I don’t like beards they make me come out in a rash lol …not heard of these beard tokens ..very interesting

  10. Is it. Texas oil

  11. I have had a beard since i was 18 and only shaved it off once for the 40th anniversary of VE day when the pub had a fancy dress night an i only had army attire to hand
    For decades beard wearers were treated with suspicion and treated as second class citizens but now even some women sport them its become a fashion item .
    I kind of miss the club of facial hair wariness but i must admit theres some really fine whiskers on some of the students wheras mine was grown because i was a lazy bugger now being a fashion statement the grooming is impressive but unfortunately my grey wirery chin mat is to far gone to bother with.

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