“Of Beards and Men: The Revealing History of Facial Hair.” By Christopher Oldstone-Moore. University Of Chicago Press. 352 pages. $30

Oldstone-Moore makes the case that today’s bearded renaissance is part of a centuries-long cycle in which facial hairstyles have varied in response to changing ideals of masculinity. He explains that the clean-shaven face has been the default style throughout Western history – see Alexander the Great’s beardless face, for example, as the Greek heroic ideal. But the primacy of razors has been challenged over the years by four great bearded movements, beginning with Hadrian in the second century and stretching to today’s bristled resurgence. The clean-shaven face today, Oldstone-Moore says, has come to signify a virtuous and sociable man, whereas the beard marks someone as self-reliant and unconventional. History, then, has established specific meanings for facial hair, which both inspire and constrain a man’s choices in how he presents himself to the world.