Beards and Mustaches: 5 Styles in Old Photos

By Maureen A. Taylor

It’s November so expect to see a lot of facial hair on the men you meet. Growing mustaches is part of Movember, a fundraising and awareness effort for men’s health and cancers.

Our ancestors proudly sported fashionable beards and mustaches, too. When they went to the barber they could choose styles based on charts like this one:

c.1884 Library of Congress

Since each of these facial hair types has a name, I thought it would be fun to spot them in some old photos:

In the 1880s, James Wilkins chose a mustache known as the Pennant. In the 20th century, artist Salvador Dalí was famous for an exaggerated version of this style. Library of Congress

This unidentified man in the 1880s wears the beard but not the mustache for the Imperial style. I’ve also seen this beard referred to as the Spade.

Here’s another version of the Imperial from the same period.

A young Teddy Roosevelt chose the Burnsides Short style for this 1882 portrait. Library of Congress

Orville Wright wears the Pennant style in 1905, 20 years after the publication of that beard trimming chart. Library of Congress

Beards and mustaches sometimes stayed in style for decades, so it’s important not to jump to conclusions when you see an 1880s style on your ancestor. In addition, not all men chose to wear facial hair.

Can you spot any of these mustaches and beards in pictures of your ancestors? Use the the chart depicted in this article and the examples in Hairstyles 1840-1900 for comparison.

I’d love to feature your pictures here. Click the How to Submit Your Photo link on the left for details on how to email your pictures.

Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now