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German political theorist Friedrich Engels in 1877, wearing a large full beard.

Pogonophobia is the fear of beards.


The term pogonophobia is derived from the Greek words pogon (πώγων) for beard and phobos (φόβος) for fear.[1] Its antonym would be "pogonophilia", that is the love of beards or bearded persons.[2]

David Smith's 1851 publication of The Covenanter of the Reformed Presbyterian Church describes the Jesuits of Baden as suffering "a veritable pogonophobia at the sight of a democratic chin."[3]

The term is generally meant to be taken in a jocular vein.[1] In the 1920s, psychologist John B. Watson was able to condition this fear in a young boy by means of classical conditioning methods.[4]

In August 2013 Christopher Oldstone-Moore, history lecturer at Wright State University in Ohio, and author of The Beard Movement in Victorian Britain[5] commented, "Facial hair for the past century has been thought to reflect a suspicious streak of individuality and defiance... Politicians, public servants and businessmen – and apparently journalists – risk their reputations if they abandon the razor."[6]

Some relationship to "beardism" — discrimination based on facial hair — is claimed, and a difference in cultures is noted.[7] Some association with claims of unhygienic beards (e.g., among homeless men) and fashion preferences of women. That various religious groups treat beards more or less reverently is also a factor, for example in Judaism and in Islam. Similarly, some groups require beards and forbid shaving, which has an effect on that society's norms and perceptions.[8]

Accusations of pogonophobia at the BBC[edit]

In August 2013, Jeremy Paxman accused his employers of pogonophobia after he was criticized by many newspapers and social networking sites for presenting the BBC's current-affairs programme Newsnight whilst sporting a beard.[9] Paxman said: "Unless you're lucky enough to be Uncle Albert on Only Fools and Horses, Demis Roussos or Abu Hamza, the BBC is generally as pogonophobic as the late-lamented Albanian dictator, Enver Hoxha."[10] He later wrote: "The thing is, I don’t normally like beards," and noting how he'd become a "poster-boy" for the Beard Liberation Front, Paxman lamented that he was "finding it quite a heavy burden".[11]

Former BBC Radio 4 and World Service broadcaster Robin Lustig, previously winner of 'beard of the year', also described the BBC as pogonophobic.[12] Danny Baker of BBC Radio 5 Live disagreed and stated that: "I really do not think Jeremy Paxman should be granted a beard. It's corrupt. Disney had it right. Hey BBC – no news beards."[1][12] Baker's remark about Disney is a reference to that company's long-standing ban on employees wearing beards, only lifted in 2012 nearly sixty years after its introduction.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Quinion, Michael (17 August 2013). "Pogonotrophy". World Wide Words. Retrieved 6 October 2013. 
  2. ^ "Pogonophilia". Urban dictionary. Retrieved 6 October 2013. 
  3. ^ Smith, David A; Willson, James M. (1851). The Covenanter: Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church VII. William S. Young. p. 215. 
  4. ^ Doctor, R. M.; Kahn, A. P; Adamec, C. (2008). The Encyclopedia of Phobias, Fears, and Anxieties (Third ed.). New York: Facts On File Inc. p. 82. ISBN 978-0816064533. 
  5. ^ Oldstone-Moore, Christopher (Autumn 2005). "The Beard Movement in Victorian Britain". Victorian Studies (Indiana University Press) 48 (1): 7–34. Retrieved 6 October 2013. 
  6. ^ Lowther, Ed (14 August 2013). "A history of beards in the workplace". BBC News. Retrieved 15 August 2013. 
  7. ^ "Are you a beardist?". BBC World News. 18 November 2002. Retrieved 6 October 2013. 
  8. ^ "Fear Of Beards". FearOf.net. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  9. ^ Halliday, Josh (13 August 2013). "Jeremy Paxman's beard tickles Newsnight viewers and Twitter". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 October 2013. 
  10. ^ "Jeremy Paxman 'may keep' notorious Newsnight beard". BBC News. 13 August 2013. Retrieved 6 October 2013. 
  11. ^ Paxman, Jeremy (17 August 2013). "Jeremy Paxman: It's only a beard but it's a big burden". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 6 October 2013. 
  12. ^ a b Battersby, Matilda; Noah, Sherna (29 July 2013). "Is the BBC pogonophobic? Jeremy Paxman's beard raises a hairy issue". The Independent. Retrieved 6 October 2013. 
  13. ^ Jones, Sam (24 January 2012). "Disney lifts beard ban for park workers". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 August 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

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