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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]

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 in 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. 48 (1). Indiana University Press: 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. 12 August 2014. 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.

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