Although beards can bring an air of authority and gravitas to many faces, their popularity is probably at an all-time low.
Historically, this decline can be explained by a number of cultural and legislative changes, such as early antipathy to Vikings, the punitive facial hair tax introduced by Pitt the Younger and the invention of the nuclear powered razor in the 1950s.
In recent years, however, there has been a minor resurgence in beards, with celebrities such as Johnny Depp, David Beckham and Miley Cyrus all jumping on the whisker and bristle bandwagon with varying degrees of enthusiasm and commitment.
Around 6% of UK pensioners have a beard (including some 4,000 women) and the most popular styles in 2012 were the Toggenburg goatee, the full Raleigh (particularly favoured by people who own a boat) and the Belgrave barbiche with occasional muttonchop.
Beards require a measure of regular grooming to maintain optimum condition and without such a regime, they can become matted with food debris, marmalade and dormice. Waxing can prevent much of the build-up of unwanted detritus, and beards can then also be used as candles during power cuts or to create a more romantic atmosphere on anniversaries.