Beard tax

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A Russian beard token from 1705, carried to indicate that the owner had paid the beard tax imposed by Peter the Great

A beard tax is one of several taxes introduced throughout history on men who wear beards.


In 1535, King Henry VIII of England, who wore a beard himself, introduced a tax on beards. The tax was a graduated tax, varying with the wearer's social position. His daughter, Elizabeth I of England, reintroduced the beard tax, taxing every beard of more than two weeks' growth.[1]

While quotations about this exist on the internet, in the absence of a primary source citation, this should not be taken as fact. The sumptuary law published in Elizabeth's reign makes no mention of beards.[2]


In 1698,[3] Emperor Peter I of Russia instituted a beard tax to modernize the society of Russia following European models. Those who paid the tax were required to carry a "beard token".[4] This was a copper or silver token with a Russian Eagle on one side and on the other, the lower part of a face with nose, mouth, whiskers, and beard. It was inscribed with two phrases: "the beard tax has been taken" (lit: "Money taken") and "the beard is a superfluous burden".[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sharpe, M. E. (1967), Challenge, Vol 2, New York University Institute of Economic Affairs, p. 14 
  2. ^ Elizabeth, Queen. "A declaration of the Queen Majesties Will". Barker. Retrieved 23 March 2014. 
  3. ^ Fashions in Hair: The first five thousand years, Richard Corson, published 1965 by Peter Owen Ltd, isbn 0 7206 3283 8 - page 220
  4. ^ "Smithsonian Rare Russian Coin Collection Seeks Exhibition Sponsor". Retrieved 2011-12-23. 
  5. ^ Florenskiĭ, Pavel Aleksandrovich (1997), The Pillar and the Ground of Truth, Princeton University Press, p. 535, ISBN 978-0-691-03243-6