A history of facial hair, Of Beards and Men makes the case that today’s bearded renaissance is part of a centuries-long cycle in which facial hairstyles have varied in response to changing ideals of masculinity."
On the larger historical picture, it is good; when alighting on the otherwise obscure moments of the bearded record, it is better, or at least more pleasurable to the lay reader...[Oldstone-Moore] falters a bit by giving short shrift to the present day, when a beard is a byword for hipness and the shifting politics of gender expression have made facial hair a loaded signifier. (The import of beards to the transgender community, both cultivation and depilation, would make an interesting book on its own.) But his long view on our unshaven history is likely to stand unchallenged for some time.
Mr. Oldstone-Moore gives several indications that he aced Academic Jargon 101—'the language of facial hair is built on the contrast of shaved and unshaved'—but he also presents a pleasant survey of beard knowledge with a wry sense of humor, starting with a trip back to the dawn of humanity, when beards evolved 'because our prehistoric female ancestors liked them.'
[Oldstone-Moore] writes well, and his erudition is impressive, enabling readers to learn all kinds of interesting things from this zigzag chronicle, which is basically a history of Western civilization as written on the faces of its leading men...But the author’s obsessive exegesis leads him out onto some fragile limbs.