The beard has had an adventure throughout history. From being a powerful symbol to becoming a fashion statement, beards have become incredibly cherished, coveted, and loved. What about one of the most iconic white beards of all time and the jolly man who wears it?
Happy December, friends! I still can’t get over the fact that we are so close to celebrating some of our favorite holidays and that we are about to say goodbye to 2020. While I may be incredibly busy this time of year, there is still time left to purchase a service for yourself or your loved one to kick off the end of this year and the beginning of the next! While we are all preparing for the holidays in our own unique and special ways, this time of year has me thinking about one particularly special beard. It might be, perhaps, one of the most famous and precious beards of all time. While some may or may not believe, there is still a sense of magic and wonder to jolly old Saint Nicolas and his trademark beard! While his look has changed over the years, the beard has always remained. In the spirit of the holiday season, I thought it might be fun to learn a little bit more about that famous jolly beard and what it means to don the red suit yourself.
The story and legend of Santa is a global phenomenon. Different cultures have different beliefs about mythical characters who deliver gifts to children for multiple reasons and in multiple ways. In Scandinavia, an elf named Juitometen is known to deliver gifts in a sleigh pulled by goats. According to History.Com, an elderly woman in Russian named Babushka was known to give the wise men the wrong directions to find the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. She later felt guilty, so to this day she is known to leave gifts on January 5th at the bedside of every Russian child hoping that one day she will leave a gift for the baby Jesus. Then we have a monk named St. Nicholas, who was said to be born in late 280 A.D in what is now known as modern-day Turkey. This is where our modern-day Santa, and his beard, got their start. This kind monk, who in many tales had a long white beard, was known for evenly distributing his wealth among the poor. He gave away all that he owned and traveled the country helping the sick and poor. Over time he became a patron saint and protector of sailors and children. His popularity continued even through the Protestant reformation, according to History.Com, and he continued to be popular around the world.
While this famous and kind monk continued his kind deeds and remained a beloved saint everywhere else when did this jolly man first come to America? According to the History Channel, some of the first mentions of him in America were in the late 1700s when it was made public that groups of Dutch families had gathered to mourn the day of his death. In 1822, Clement Clarke Moore wrote a poem for his daughters, one that we now know today as “Twas The Night Before Christmas”. The poem inspired our modern-day Santa, drawn from its early roots of the Dutch settlers, creating a very popular icon. It wasn’t until 1881 when Thomas Nast, a political cartoonist, got a hold of Moore’s very popular poem and created a cartoon of what would evolve into what our modern-day Santa looks like. It was Nast, according to, who created everything from his elves, his red suit, his bubbly wife Mrs. Clause, and what the big white beard looked like. By the time Clemente Moore and Thomas Nast had made their contributions to the embodiment of Santa Clause, he was already becoming a popular figure thanks to the world of retail. Christmas shopping has become a popular advertised activity for stores of all sizes, and what would make it more special than seeing these popular drawings of the newly imagined and bearded Santa Clause come to life while you were out shopping? The retail industry took this idea and ran with it starting in the 1840s, but once the official creation of Santa in the hands of Nast and Moore was born, Christmas and consumerism were never the same.
This is why it should be no surprise to you when in the early 1930s, the world of consumerism finally solidified the look of our Santa Clause today, thanks to one of the most popular soft drink companies of all time. Coca Cola hired Haddon Sunbloom to take the image of the now very popular Santa Clause that had already existed (they had tried in recent years to have an artist create a Santa, but it didn’t have any real success) and to create a Santa Clause that would not only help sell their product but symbolize the joy of Christmas. Cut to 1931 and Sunbloom debuted his first Santa Claus, also inspired by the same poem Thomas Nast had based his cartoon drawings of Santa on, written by none other than Clement Clarke Moore. There, with his big red suit, big bushy beard, gleaming eyes, and a bottle of coke in hand, Santa Clause was fully born. According to the Coca Cola Company, Sunbloom drew a new Santa Clause for Coca Cola every year between 1931 and 1964, forever solidifying our classic Santa. While many years have passed since Sunbloom drew his last Santa, and the images of him have become more modern over time, the one thing that remains is his big white beard.
While researching the truth and history behind Jolly Old Saint Nicks’ beard, I came across an article from the ATLANTA Magazine. It talked about the need for Black Santas, the demand and responsibilities of playing Santa Clause, and the many behind the scenes that many might not think about when it comes to donning the red suit every year. While seeing a professional Santa at the mall was something many of us grew up with, that is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Today’s modern Santa is branching out and taking their responsibilities more seriously than ever. What struck me the most was that one Santa in particular that author Tess Malon interviewed. Tom Oleson hadn’t ever planned on playing Santa, but his well-groomed beard had other plans. Over ten years ago, a little girl saw him at the mall and stopped dead in her tracks. She frantically asked her mom if Oleson was the real Santa Clause. After her mother convinced Oleson to speak with her daughter, and he stepped so naturally into the part, that it just kind of struck. Keeping your beard healthy, clean, and well-groomed can help lead you to a very special career opportunity it looks like!
What really stopped me in my tracks while reading was when I came across the statement that all three Santa Clauses that were being interviewed all came back too. They all agreed that to pull off the magic, the beard has to be real. Children of all ages will want to pull on it as proof that this Santa is the real deal. I love the idea that not only does Santa promote a beautiful historic beard’s appreciation, but it also acts as proof for something and someone very special to our children.
What struck me as sad was when these Santa Clauses talked about the months out of the year when they weren’t in the red suit. Each clause interviewed agreed that while the beard needs to be real, they usually don’t start growing it until early spring. D. Sinclair stated that when Christmas is over, it’s hard to deal with the beard and the professional world. Many places don’t want to hire someone with a full-sized Santa Clause Beard. While it might be magical for some, it is unprofessional for others. Which, coming from my profession and my point of view, seems quite unfair. A well-groomed beard gives a sense of style, personality, and individuality in my book and my barber chair. The Santa Beard will always be approved in my book!
While I’ve talked about the history of the beard itself, this beard is one that has made a lasting impression on many of us since we were very young. An iconic symbol of well-groomed whiskers holding the joyous holiday all in one. Who knows? The more we work together on caring for your beard, it might turn you into the next Santa Clause? I look forward to seeing as many of you as I can in the last few weeks of 2020, and to start this new year off on a great foot! From my family to yours, may you have a very safe and happy holiday season!