When it came to the wearing of facial hair, Roman men went through several shifts in style over the long history of their civilization. From the founding of Rome in 753 B.C.E. until about 300 B.C.E. , all men wore long beards and long hair. In a way, they had no choice, for razors hadn't been invented. Then, in about 300 B.C.E. , a barber from the island of Sicily introduced the razor and everything changed. For the next several hundred years Roman men followed a simple rule about facial hair: slaves wore beards and free men and citizens did not. It took a vain emperor to change men's beard styles again.

The emperor Hadrian (76–138 C.E. ) came to power as a result of his skills as a military general, and he ruled the Roman Empire from 117 to 138 C.E. In order to hide his facial scars, Hadrian wore a beard and curly hair. (In fact, it is likely that he curled both his hair and his beard.) In ancient Rome the emperor held all the power, and men across the empire followed his lead. Thus, beards once again came in style. Slaves, on the other hand, began to shave. When the emperor Constantine (c. 285–337 C.E. ) came into power in 306 C.E. , he brought a clean-shaven face back into fashion again.

When beards were in fashion, men took great care of them. They visited barbers to have their beards clipped, plucked, and curled. Wealthy men kept slaves whose sole duty was to care for their master's hair.


Batterberry, Michael, and Ariane Batterberry. Fashion: The Mirror of History. New York: Greenwich House, 1977.

Cosgrave, Bronwyn. The Complete History of Costume and Fashion: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day. New York: Checkmark Books, 2000.

Symons, David J. Costume of Ancient Rome. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.

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