Five Things You Probably Never Knew about Sideburns

Elvis Presley's sideburns.
Elvis Presley’s sideburns

Sideburns is the name for the facial hair that grows in front of the ears. They may be long, short, thick, thin, or anywhere in between. The one key is a clean shaven chin. If facial hair grows on the chin, it is a beard instead of sideburns. Sideburns have a long and storied history. They may take on different meanings to different people based on location, time, culture, and religion. We are going to take a detailed look at five things you probably never knew about sideburns.

  1. The name sideburns has nothing to do with the location on the head where they grow. In fact, sideburns were named for a union general during the Civil War, Ambrose Burnside. This man was not a particularly good general, but he wore a unique style of facial hair that consisted of thick sideburns connecting to a handlebar mustache. Originally, this style of hair growth was called burnsides in honor of General Burnside. Over time, the syllables were switched around to the more familiar form used today.
  2. Sideburns have been a part of men’s hairstyles for centuries. In fact, Alexander the Great sported a pair of long sideburns that are depicted as blowing in the wind in an Alexander mosaic that dates back to the year 100 BC.
  3. You may have noticed that most Jewish men, especially holy men, have long thick sideburns. You probably did not know that this is based in the Old Testament book, Leviticus. The sideburns worn by Jewish men are a mark of what particular sect of Judaism they follow. Each group has its own unique style for wearing the sideburns and can easily recognize members of their own sect or a different one by looking at the facial hair. In some cases, age and relative position within the religious community also determine the exact style of sideburns that will be worn.
  4. Elvis Presley was famous for his sideburns. They became a part of his trademark look in later years. Did you know that his sideburns were more important to him than being allowed to play high school football? It’s true. At age 13, Elvis began to grow his sideburns out and wear his hair in a style that was considered long by the standards of the time. He earned the nickname, Miss Elvis, from the other members of his high school football team. The situation came to a head when the coach told him to cut his hair or be cut from the team. Young Elvis was already being noticed by the girls for his rebel look, so he quit football to devote more time to his music and his girl chasing.
  5. Given the origin of the name sideburns, it is obvious that they have played a role in the military for many years. Soldiers are allowed to wear sideburns provided they are cleanly trimmed and have sharp edges that do not extend below the ears. Mutton chops and other thicker forms of sideburns are not allowed in the military.

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1 thought on “Five Things You Probably Never Knew about Sideburns”

  1. Thanks for the insightful information about sideburns I've never known. I always make sure that the hairstylist does not shave away my sideburns. Simply love it…


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