The fashion of the time was to be clean-shaven. But does that mean that everyone was?
Especially in the early part of the century the practise of shaving yourself had not quite caught on. The shaving was done by a barber, or possibly someone else that was skilled in the art. In the later part of 18:th century you start to see adverts for razors for the home. In 1770 French barber Jean-Jacques Perret (1730-1784) published a treatise called Pogonotomy, or The Art of Learning to Shave Oneself.
In civilised areas this was no big problem, in more remote areas, it could become one. Soldiers had the regimental barber that kept them up to reglemented standard.
The swedsih farmerclass
Carl von Linné remarks on his travels that ‘most farmers was bearded’, even noting some differences in different parts of the land. In the province of Scania they had no beard on the lip and throat, but on the cheeks and chin, indicating the shaving was indeed practised but that they choose to have a beard, even a fashioned one.
In early 18th century a book to show sweden and its history was printed. It is called “suecia antiqua et hodierna” and it has pictures of Castles, towns, interesting places and also of men. What is noticable is that almost all farmers are depicted with beards on these pictures. I choose three below, but it is easy to google up several more.
In later 18th century the farmers class representant to the king was painted in court with his magnificent beard (I have no picture of this painting alas…)
The same is true in Norway, who has a similar tradition to sweden.
In 1764 the Danish king started a park with statues of his Norwegian subjects. It shows simple folks, Fishers, hunters, farmers as well as some more fashionable types. What is noticeable is the beards on many of them…..
The lack of beards in paintings from 18th Century only goes so far. Those that painted simple folks, did paint some beards. It is frequently pictured on poor or old, or poor and old people. There are some few examples of respectable men with facial hair, but I guess those could have been thought rather eccentric in their time.
Now, on to myself and my reenacting.
Sometimes i sport a beard.. sometimes I dont.
Soldiers and beards
Soldiers in the Carolean army was to be cleanshaved or have a moustache in some cases (cavalry and possibly grenadiers). My Friend Dennis found that a Regiment of about 6000 men had three journeyman barbers and one master. They say a good barber lifts his knife four times during a shave. A very good one three. So, lets say these barbers take ten minutes per soldier (that allows time to sit and maybe chat abit) and them 5 soldiers an hour (it never goes smooth anyway). That is 35 soldiers on a 7 hour work, times four barbers. 140 soldiers a day. Now, many soldiers might be so young that they don’t even have a proper beard to shave. Lets say a third of the regiment is that young. That gives us 4000 soldiers to shave. But a regiment is seldom full, people die and get sick get lost and all sorts of things… lets say 1000 is not in current state to get shaved. 3000 beardos to get into regimental orders. That will get the barbers a turnaround of 21 days. But they cant work on Sundays so we add three extra days for the Sundays work lost. And lets round it up to 25 for a good measure. That will mean that a soldier might get a shave every 25 days if lucky.
But then we have not counted on the barbers that most probably have joined up in the baggagetrain. The Carolean army when marching out on the Russian campaign of 1707 manned about 44.000 to 60.000 men. All of which where bound by the regs to be shaved. My guess is that few ambitious barbers would not try and get a piece of that action.
Not a Regular soldier…
I reenact a Footdragoon. A irregular soldier often fighting behind enemy lines. Many of these where little more then highway robbers even before they got recruited but it was certainly so that they where operating far from civilized areas.
The Army commander once complained in a letter to the king that he had sent captain Långströms footdragoons out on a mission and had since then not heard from them for six months. I Think that being this far out and in a society where beards for peasants was not uncommon, shaving would have been far down the necessity list. They are described as dirty and ragged in ripped clothes. Quite possibly they shaved when in the vicinity of the army headquarters, but out in the field, bearing in mind that self shaving was not the norm, one could expect them to be quite shaggy.
So, if you are reenacting a regular soldier, a townsman or a respected Citizen. Cleanshaved would be the most probable option. If you are something like me…. maybe a beard is actually more probable.