Tax – the link between Tsarist Russia and modern hipsters

Today’s beard trend associated with the hipster generation is actually nothing new – and neither is the love-it-or-hate-it attitude that goes with it. Tsar Peter the Great was firmly in the ‘hate it’ camp, and decided to do something about it by imposing a beard tax in 1698.

From the beginning of his reign, Peter I had been trying to Westernise the entire Russian way of life, society and culture; and this extended to fashion sensibilities as well.  He, therefore, set out to replace the traditional Russian long flowing beards with a clean-shaven European look.

He started by personally chopping off the beards of the bemused Russian nobles and then levied a heavy tax on those still attached to their facial hair. Those who had paid the tax carried a ‘beard token’, which depicted a nose, mouth, moustache and beard, and was inscribed with the proclamation “The beard is a useless burden”. Furthermore, Peter ordered his nobles to wear fashionable German or English style dress instead of their traditional clothing, whilst French became the language of the court and the upper class.

Similar beard taxes were imposed in England by Henry VIII and Elizabeth I – so if history does turn out to repeat itself, British hipsters may end up having to pay for more than hair products to maintain their facial fuzz.

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Pamela Hellig