The Van Dyke beard is named after a 17th century painter who went by the name of Anthony van Dyck. The Van Dyke beard comprises of both a moustache and a goatee but the cheeks are left clean shaven. The painter after whom the beard is named, himself sported one, not to mention most of his clients whose portraits he painted.
This style of growing one’s beard was very much in vogue in Europe in the 17th century and is also is referred as the “Musketeer”. The beard is also sometimes called a “Charlie” after King Charles I of England who was painted by Van Dyck with this type of beard. The aristocratic lineage of the Van Dyke beard just doesn’t stop there. It was also seen on the holy Roman emperor Ferdinand II in 1614 and on Prince Aimone, the Duke of Apulia as recently as 2006.
Lenin in 1920 was also pictured in a similar beard and Oscar winning actor Christian Bale and the chameleon that is Johnny Depp have both sported a Van Dyke beard. So, has the former James Bond star, Pierce Brosnan. Thus, this style of facial hair has a rich and aristocratic lineage but post the restoration era, it died a sudden death in Britain. It was the era of the French styles and wigs and the Van Dyke was suddenly not so popular.
Interestingly however, a group of people known as the aristocrats and who called themselves the “vow-beards” carried on the tradition and swore to do so until the King revived the style again. Unfortunately for them, that never happened. The beard however gained popularity in the 19th century when a variation of the same style surfaced in the latter half of the same century. But the style was heavily criticised by a member of the American press.
However, the “vow beards” would have been pleased to know that bang in the 21st century, the Van Dyke is making quite the comeback. And, it is doing so in several modern avatars. There is the “blunt and grown out” Van Dyke and the Van Dyke with the classic sideburns. Then, there is the classic Van Dyke which just reinstates the statement that old is gold!
But there is a debate as to whether the Van Dyke is really a beard or is it a type of moustache. The jury’s still out on this one. The chin is partially covered by facial hair but the rest of the face is left clean shaven. As such, the look primarily focuses on the moustache without a great deal of emphasis on the beard. At best, it can be called a hybrid in a time when most beards are associated in one way or the other with the Balbo beard.
However, if one is looking for the best popular example of the Van Dyke then one can always refer to the beard that belongs to the face of the founding father of the fast food giant KFC, Colonel Sanders!