Victorian Cleanliness 1872 Style (Part 2)

Beard“But the man who throws his clothes about the room, a boot in one corner, a cravat in another, and his brushes anywhere, is not a man of good habits. The spirit of order should extend to everything about him.”

All quotes are taken from “The Habits of Good Society: A handbook for Ladies and Gentlemen.”

If only the writer could see my nails. Broken, uneven, and badly needing my cuticles cut. I exhibit poor habits. Of course, I need to work and am not of the upper crust in England either, so what does it matter that I type all day and break them left and right?  Having clean and long nails was the mark of gentility because it stated you were rich enough that you didn’t have to work.

Victorians were told to pay strict attention to the condition of their nails. They should be buffed with soap and water, cleaned underneath with some type of instrument, and filed perfectly oval. Longer nails were preferred, however, strangely enough, this book does not differentiate between the nails of a man or woman. A man who does not keep his nails clean can be called a charlatan. The man who loves beauty will cultivate everything around him – including clean nails.

“The mustache and beard movement is one in the right direction, proving that men are beginning to appreciate beauty, and to acknowledge that nature is the best valet.”

Manly egos in 1872 – beards, mustaches, and whiskers were significant additions to a man’s face. Stubble on a man’s face was considered uncouth. Stubble is the style of the twenty-first century — how far we have fallen from the habits of good society. Beards, of course, came in all shapes and sizes. A good one matched the form of the man’s face. Mustaches should not be overly long as is the custom in some countries. However, a man who loves to curl the ends of his mustache into a point or twist it upward like a needle is guilty of vanity like the French. Trimming a beard or mustache is an absolute.

The matter of a man’s hair during this era is interesting because both long and short were acceptable as long as it was arranged, brushed, and trimmed. European countries were apparently more prone to longer hair than the British. Shorter hair in Britain was the style of the day and easier to keep neat. Hair was washed every morning because it supposedly held preventive measures from coming down with a cold. (Hum, old wive’s tale for sure, since I wash my hair regularly and still get colds.) The writer states, “I never have more than one cold per annum, and I attribute this to my use of the morning bath, and regular washing of my head.”

So, out of curiosity do you prefer the clean shaven or would you have fallen in love in 1872 with a man with a full beard and mustache?  As you can probably tell from my characters, I do mention that some of my heroines prefer the clean shaven.  Only a few have had mustaches.

Next post – the lady’s toilet. This one is going to take a while to write because of the all the “essences, powders, pastes, washes for the hair, and washes for the skin.” Of course, little did the ladies of the day know they were often applying arsenic to their face. If you haven’t read that nightmare of a post here is a link to ARSENIC & VICTORIAN LACE.