Aside

Historical whiskers: Van Dykes and goatees

29 Mar

Flemish painter, Anthony Van Dyke, originator of the Van Dyke whisker style.

If you lived through the 90s and were old enough to grow facial hair, chances are, you wore a wrap-around mustache/beard combination and you probably called it a goatee. You might be shocked to know that in the modern era, this facial hair style, mistakenly called a goatee, is actually a 400 year old Flemish (Dutch) style called a Van Dyke.

Author, Victoria Sherrow, explains both types of facial hair in her historical study of appearance in For Appearance’s Sake:

Goatees are tufts of hair on the chin, trimmed to look like the beard of a male goat, which give them their name.

Some men wear a mustache along with this type of beard. Variations of this look include the Van Dyke beard, which was named for seventeenth-century Flemish artist Anthony Van Dyke (1599 – 1641), whose portraits showed men wearing goatees.

Men like King Charles I of England. Charles usually sported a long chin beard and mustache combo, and commissioned many Van Dyke portraits. Shown here,  Charles I from Three Angles by Van Dyke, was created  as a guide for Italian sculptor, Bernini, commissioned by Pope Urban VIII to make the bust of the king. (Bernini is the famous sculptor of the period who did breathtaking work with marble and created such pieces as The Ecstasy of St. Theresa, David, and Apollo and Daphne. See images of his work here.)

This style comes in many forms from the complete, solid wrap-around, to various detached mustache and chin beard combinations of various shapes and styles that go in and out of fashion. During the Grunge period of the 90s, for example, every guy I knew who could grow a beard wore a closed Van Dyke (but called it a goatee).

The great musicians of the period wore them well – Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, and sometimes Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. The Van Dyke is a strong characteristic feature of the 90s and it was a good look at the time, but that was 20 years ago (!). Gents, if you haven’t changed your facial hair since 1994, I strongly suggest you modernize and shave off or reshape your whiskers – there are many variations of the mustache-chin beard style and lots of style experimentation to do that won’t make you look like you’re clinging to your youth.

The face is like a canvas; women change their looks by applying cosmetics, men by shaving, growing, and shaping their beards.

Heavy Van Dyke fans

Founding Pantera guitarist, the late Dimebag Darrell.

Pantera's Vinnie Paul

Metal musicians seem to like the Van Dyke, and lots of rockers come to mind. The two different Van Dyke styles shown here are worn by Pantera members: guitarist, Dimebag Darrell, wore a long mustache, grew his chin beard out and dyed it red. Ian Scott, the guitarist from Anthrax, also has a long chin beard that he sometimes colours red (not sure which came first), but he wears it alone without a ‘stache. He also shaves his head which makes his goatee more prominent and obvious.

Darrell’s brother and drummer, Vinnie Paul, wears a closed Van Dyke style with fancy chops. Shown here, his cool three-section chop sets off his Van Dyke.

Goatee

Pan, the ancient Greek deity of the woods, shepherds, and flocks, among other things.

The goatee proper, is simply chin whiskers, as Sherrow says, so-called because of its similarity to the chin hair of the billy-goat. The origin of goatee beards is thought to have originated in ancient Greece, where Pan, god of the woods, of creativity, music, poetry, and sexuality, is usually depicted wearing a chin beard.

Over time, this image of a goatee-d deity morphed into an image of the occult, known as Baphomet, illustrated in Eliphas Levi”s Dogmas and Rituals in High Magic (below). According to Secret Arcana, a website devoted to occult symbolism, Baphomet is symbolic of alchemy “where separate and opposing forces are united in perfect equilibrium to generate Astral Light.”

This Baphomet image has become synonymous with Satan and associated with sin and  darkness. If one thinks along extreme lines and decides to split the world into good and bad, embracing the dark, bad side is, in a sense, a way to thumb one’s nose at the “good” establishment. Not surprisingly, many rock and rollers have embraced the bad-ass, bad-boy image associated with darkness and the rebellion against the mundane.

Metallica's James Hetfield

Metal musicians who favour the goatee include Metallica singer and guitarist, James Hetfield, who sometimes wears a long, two-piece goatee, and bassist and vocalist for Slayer, Tom Araya, favours a long one-piece goatee.

Tom Araya of Slayer (Photograph by Steve Appleford)

Abe Lincoln was known to sport a goatee, as did the beatnicks of the 1950s. When Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher, Joel Hanrahan, shaved off his chin beard, it was an event – read this hilarious tribute to Hanrahan’s dead goatee here. And let’s not forget the most famous cartoon goatee of them all, the chin beard of Norville “Shaggy” Rogers, slacker and suspected stoner on Scooby-Doo.

For this post, it was simply my intention to clarify the Van Dyke and the goatee confusion, but what I found in the research is amazing to me. The historical, artistic, and occult lore of facial hair runs deeper than I realized and I am led to one conclusion: no matter how much things change, the more they stay the same.

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