Geek Trivia

Sideburns, The Facial Hair Style, Derive Their Name From?

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Answer: An American General

If you’ve ever sported a pair of sweet sideburns, facial hair grown down the side of the face but not connected in the middle, you can thank American Civil War general Ambrose Burnside. While certainly not the first person to sport an unusual facial hairstyle, the General’s giant patches of hair on either cheek linked by a mustache pushed the style into fashion in America in the 1870s.

While initially worn in the odd bare-chin styling preferred by the General, fashions changed and men started shaving the mustache section, leaving both their upper lip and chin bare. Around the same time the name of the style “burnsides” became corrupted into “sideburns”, both the new name and the new styling stuck.

The style and name persists to the present, although modern sideburns are typically a much tamer affair that extend slightly down and past the ear instead of across the entire cheek as was fashionable in the 19th century.

Image courtesy of the United States Library of Congress.