Tuesday, February 09, 1999

History of goatees

Could Satan have had the first?

        Goatees are so named because they resemble the beard of a billy goat.

        So says John Sulak, who wrote “A Brief History of the Goatee” for the September 1996 edition of Request Line, the online sibling of Request magazine. The full article is at www.requestline.com/pop/feature/1996/09/goatee/

        His research revealed:

        • The first goatee may have been worn by Satan. The devil's image is based on Pan, the ancient Greek half-man, half-goat deity. When early Christians began abolishing pagan religions and their gods, they needed someone to play the heavy. They chose Pan, a lover of music, dancing and sex. His flute was replaced by a pitchfork and he was transformed from the god of woods and pastures to the ruler of hell.

        • In the 17th century, goatees got some respect thanks to Flemish painter Sir Anthony Van Dyck (also spelled Van Dyke). He did a series of portraits of men wearing the goatee variation now known as the Van Dyke.

        • During the last days of the French Empire in the mid-19th century, the “imperial” was worn by Napoleon III. Wax or pomade was used to bring chin whiskers to a sharp point.

        • In America, imperials became popular with officers on both sides of the Civil War. The look remained in vogue after the war, thanks in part to Buffalo Bill Cody, who toured the country with his Wild West Show.

        • In late 19th-century Paris, poets, painters, intellectuals and dropouts — collectively known as bohemians — lived together in poverty and rebellion. For them, the goatee was a symbol of their free-spirited nature.

        • By the 1940s, America had its own bohemians, but trendy haircuts weren't their thing. After World War II, the stereotypical “beatnik” look — goatee and black beret — was copied from jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie.

        • From 1959 to 1963, the television show Dobie Gillis brought a goateed man by the name of Maynard G. Krebs into millions of American living rooms. Bob Denver (who later was a castaway on Gilligan's Island)played the role of Maynard, a likable guy who dressed like a bum and listened to jazz.

        • By 1969 the goatee cropped up regularly on the popular cartoon Scooby-Doo. Shaggy, the beatnik among the teen-age sleuths, sported a long, thin goatee.

        For twentysome years, the goatee disappeared, Mr. Sulak writes. “Only a person who was completely cut off from popular culture would grow such a beard,” he writes.

        Not so in the '90s. High profile personalities with goatees include TV's Anthony Edwards (ER), Jeffrey Samms (Cupid) and Rocky Carroll (Chicago Hope); film actors Ben Affleck (Shakespeare In Love) and Will Smith (Enemy of the State); director Spike Lee, and a pretty fair baseball player named Mark McGwire.

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