If you've visited Amish country, you've seen that they quite lead quite a different life. From their dress to their mode of transport and lifestyle, Amish people appear to live a more traditional and simpler life than most of us.
One of the things you may have noticed is that Amish men don't grow mustaches. They grow their beards quite long and keep neat sideburns, but never mustaches.
Although it may seem like an arbitrary distinction to make, the reasoning behind it is actually deeply meaningful and can tell you a whole lot about this deeply fascination culture.
Why don't the Amish grow mustaches? We first need to understand who the Amish are and why something as seemingly simple as a mustache is so important.
Who Are The Amish?
The Amish are an anabaptist Christian subculture formed in the 17th century by Jakob Amman. The Amish are known for their strict separation from mainstream society, dressing in plain clothing, and living a simple lifestyle. They believe in living a communal life focused on religion, family, humility, and hard work.
Today, there are many subgroups of the Amish, divided into the Old Order Amish and Amish Mennonites. Old Order Amish are slow to adopt technology and use horse and buggy transportation, while the Amish Mennonites may accept limited modern technology and use cars for transportation.
Despite these differences, all Amish strictly follow the Ordnung - a set of rules and regulations that govern the life of Amish people. The Amish also remain dedicated to their traditions, such as weaving. You'll find that Amish homes have small storage baskets for shelves, which help in organizing their belongings or spools of thread and yarn.
It’s precisely this sense of tradition that leads us to the hairy subject of mustaches. The rule that led to the Amish forbidding men from adorning their upper lips is no longer in effect, yet the Amish still adhere to the rule because their ancestors did.
Let’s take a look at Amish beard rules and discuss why the Amish believe the way they look sets an example for their beliefs.
Why Do Amish Shave Their Mustache?
In the 17th century, mustaches were mandatory for anyone serving in the military in most parts of Europe. The military would often harass the poor and the Amish for their different religious beliefs. Since the Amish believe in non-violence, they stopped growing mustaches to set themselves apart from servicemen.
Today, the tradition of not growing mustaches has continued as a sign of religious devotion among Amish people. The practice of non-violence together with humility and obedience to God's will is still a core part of the Amish faith, which explains why they still don't grow mustaches.
The Amish beard is known as Shenandoah, a German word that means "one who shaves". The Amish beards style is pretty unique - with no mustaches, long beards, and neatly trimmed sideburns.
The practice of growing long beards is rooted in the Bible in Leviticus 19:27, where men are instructed not to cut the hair at the sides of their heads or clip their beards. However, you'll notice that younger Amish do not grow their beards. Is this because they are not following the hair and beard traditions? Not necessarily.
Since the Amish don’t engage in worldly acts, they aren’t allowed to wear jewelry or any worldly emblems. Married men grow beards as symbols of their marital status, and are forbidden from shaving them. However, unmarried men can shave their beards to symbolize their single status.
The Amish practice Christian Pacifism. This means that the Amish abstain from military service and other forms of violence, including violent games.
Aside from distinguishing themselves from those who served in the military, shaving mustaches is a way for Amish men to show humility by not drawing attention to themselves with an ostentatious display of facial hair. It also helps the men maintain a unified look as a community since all men have beards but no one has a mustache.
Amish Hair Rules
Just like they have rules on growing beards, the Amish have strict hair rules for women and men. Do Amish people shave? While men and women follow different Amish hair rules, one rule is common for all, hair should not draw attention to oneself.
Amish Men's Hair Rules
Amish men keep their hair short and neatly trimmed. They are allowed to don different Amish men’s hairstyles, with the most common ones being:
- The bowl cut: This haircut is the most traditional and conservative style of cutting hair for men. This haircut has been around since the 19th century and got its name from the way it was cut, with the help of a bowl. The bowl cut is easy to do at home, and easily creates a neat and uniform look that does not draw attention.
- The William Penn cut: This cut got its name from William Penn, who was a famous Quaker. The cut is similar to the bowl cut, with slightly longer hair at the back. This style was also in fashion during the 19th century and goes well with traditional Amish clothing. It is common among the more conservative Amish orders.
Amish men are allowed to don the Amish neckbeard, as long as it’s trimmed to an acceptable length. If you're wondering what a neckbeard is, it is a beard that is grown from the bottom of the chin or neck area. The neckbeard is grown long enough so that it covers the Adam’s apple, creating a neat and uniform look.
Amish men wear felt or straw hats depending on circumstances or seasonality - wide-brimmed black felt hats during cold months and straw ones during summertime are common sights in an Amish community.
Hats are an essential part of male clothing. They protect the men from the sun as they work and are sometimes used to signify rank and station. For instance, older men and those serving in the ministry wear hats with broader brims than younger members.
Amish women cannot curl their hair or use product, or jewelry on it as these are seen as worldly affectations. Amish curls must grow naturally, and any attempts to change the natural curl are considered a sin.
Overall, all Amish hair and beard rules are based on biblical teachings. Biblical rules are central to the lifestyle of the Amish, and that's why you'll find young girls playing with faceless Amish dolls to abide by the rules against graven images.
Amish rules and the Ordnung are passed from generation to generation to help ensure uniformity among the people and maintain a traditional way of life.
The Amish lifestyle emphasizes modesty, humility, and living in accordance with biblical teachings. As part of this, the rules for Amish men’s appearance are quite strict and prohibit cutting one's own hair or growing a mustache as it could be seen as vanity or pride.
Although the rule may appear a little out of date, or even a little strange, it’s importance isn’t lost on the Amish people. The tradition of shaving a man’s mustache is as tied into Amish culture and heritage as vintage bread boxes or the picnic basket. It’s just one of the many uniquely Amish traits that allows them to affirm their faith in a manner that befits their ancestors’ devout adherence to God’s will.
So, while they may never know share Tom Selleck’s love for a superbly furry upper lip and colorful Hawaiian t-shirts, the Amish are perfectly secure in their values and more than happy to continue the proud traditions of their forefathers.
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