Beard Tax Token, 1705
A beard tax is one of several taxes introduced throughout history on men who wear beards. In 1705, Emperor Peter I of Russia instituted a beard tax to modernize the society of Russia following European models. Those who paid the tax were required to carry a “beard token”. This was a copper or silver token with a Russian Eagle on one side and on the other, the lower part of a face with nose, mouth, whiskers, and beard. It was inscribed with two phrases: “the beard tax has been taken” and “the beard is a superfluous burden”.
However, Peter the Great was not the first ruler to impose a beard tax upon his subjects, in 1535, King Henry VIII of England, who wore a beard himself, introduced a tax on beards. The tax was a graduated tax, varying with the wearer’s social position. His daughter, Elizabeth I of England, reintroduced the beard tax, taxing every beard of more than two weeks’ growth.