The fashion for beards, whiskers and bristling moustaches fell into a serious decline for much of the first half of the 20th Century, not least because in both world wars, the seal on gas masks would only work on hair-free skin. But one pogonophile grew a beard that hipsters of today can only dream of. His name was Hans N Langseth, a Norwegian who had emigrated to Iowa, and he grew what is believed to be the world’s longest beard.
Although Langseth died in 1927, he was back in the news in 1967, when the Smithsonian purchased his beard – all 17.5 feet (5.3m) of it.
Lucinda Hawksley is the author of Moustaches, Whiskers and Beards, published by the National Portrait Gallery last month. She is a great-great-great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens. Extracted from http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-30037914 on November 17, 2014.