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Pogonophobia is the fear of beards.


The term pogonophobia is derived from the Greek words pogon (πώγων) for beard and phobos (φόβος) for fear.[1] Its antonym would be "pogonophilia", that is the love of beards or bearded persons.

David Smith's 1851 publication of The Covenanter of the Reformed Presbyterian Church describes the Jesuits of Baden as suffering "a veritable pogonophobia at the sight of a democratic chin."[2]

The term is generally meant to be taken in a jocular vein.[1] In the 1920s, psychologist John B. Watson was able to condition this fear in a young boy by means of classical conditioning methods.[3]

In August 2013, Christopher Oldstone-Moore, history lecturer at Wright State University in Ohio, and author of The Beard Movement in Victorian Britain[4] commented, "Facial hair for the past century has been thought to reflect a suspicious streak of individuality and defiance... Politicians, public servants and businessmen – and apparently journalists – risk their reputations if they abandon the razor."[5]

Some relationship to "beardism" – discrimination based on facial hair – is claimed, and a difference in cultures is noted.[6] Some association with claims of unhygienic beards (e.g., among homeless men) and fashion preferences of women. That various religious groups treat beards more or less reverently is also a factor, for example in Judaism and in Islam. Similarly, some groups require beards and forbid shaving, which has an effect on that society's norms and perceptions.[7]

Accusations at the BBC[edit]

In August 2013, Jeremy Paxman accused his employers of pogonophobia after he was criticized by many newspapers and social networking sites for presenting the BBC's current-affairs programme Newsnight whilst sporting a beard.[8] Paxman said: "Unless you're lucky enough to be Uncle Albert on Only Fools and Horses, Demis Roussos or Abu Hamza, the BBC is generally as pogonophobic as the late-lamented Albanian dictator, Enver Hoxha."[9] He later wrote: "The thing is, I don’t normally like beards," and noting how he'd become a "poster-boy" for the Beard Liberation Front, Paxman lamented that he was "finding it quite a heavy burden".[10]

Former BBC Radio 4 and World Service broadcaster Robin Lustig, previously winner of "Beard of the Year", also described the BBC as pogonophobic.[11] Danny Baker of BBC Radio 5 Live disagreed and stated that: "I really do not think Jeremy Paxman should be granted a beard. It's corrupt. Disney had it right. Hey BBC – no news beards."[1][11] Baker's remark about Disney is a reference to that company's long-standing ban on employees wearing beards, only lifted in 2012 nearly sixty years after its introduction.[12]

See also[edit]

  • Fear the Beard, a chant used by sports fans in support of a bearded sportsperson


  1. ^ a b c Quinion, Michael (17 August 2013). "Pogonotrophy". World Wide Words. Retrieved 6 October 2013.
  2. ^ Smith, David A; Willson, James M. (1851). The Covenanter: Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. Vol. VII. William S. Young. p. 215.
  3. ^ Doctor, R. M.; Kahn, A. P; Adamec, C. (2008). The Encyclopedia of Phobias, Fears, and Anxieties (Third ed.). New York: Facts On File Inc. p. 82. ISBN 978-0-8160-6453-3.
  4. ^ Oldstone-Moore, Christopher (Autumn 2005). "The Beard Movement in Victorian Britain". Victorian Studies. Indiana University Press. 48 (1): 7–34. doi:10.2979/VIC.2005.48.1.7. JSTOR 3829878. S2CID 143774134.
  5. ^ Lowther, Ed (14 August 2013). "A history of beards in the workplace". BBC News. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
  6. ^ "Are you a beardist?". BBC World News. 18 November 2002. Retrieved 6 October 2013.
  7. ^ "Fear Of Beards". FearOf.net. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  8. ^ Halliday, Josh (13 August 2013). "Jeremy Paxman's beard tickles Newsnight viewers and Twitter". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 October 2013.
  9. ^ "Jeremy Paxman 'may keep' notorious Newsnight beard". BBC News. 13 August 2013. Retrieved 6 October 2013.
  10. ^ Paxman, Jeremy (17 August 2013). "Jeremy Paxman: It's only a beard but it's a big burden". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 6 October 2013.
  11. ^ a b Battersby, Matilda; Noah, Sherna (29 July 2013). "Is the BBC pogonophobic? Jeremy Paxman's beard raises a hairy issue". The Independent. Retrieved 6 October 2013.
  12. ^ Jones, Sam (24 January 2012). "Disney lifts beard ban for park workers". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 August 2021.

Further reading[edit]

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