Why Amish Men Grow Beards But Not Mustaches

Today I found out why Amish men grow beards but not mustaches.

This tradition stems back to the early days of the Amish when wearing elaborate mustaches was common among those in the military.  In their early days, the Amish and other Mennonites in Europe were often persecuted by these groups. In addition to that, the Amish, being a pacifist group, didn’t want to associate themselves with those who waged war, so strictly forbid their members from growing  mustaches.  Today, few men in the Western world choose to grow mustaches, but this tradition remains among the Old Order Amish people, which number about 200,000 in North America.

While mustaches are not allowed, beards are practically a requirement among the Amish due to beards being common among men in the Bible.  However, not all Amish men are traditionally allowed to grow beards.  It isn’t until an Amish man gets married that he will stop shaving his beard and allow it to grow out, with beards being a mark of an Amish male having become a man.

Bonus Facts:

  • The Amish live their life by an unofficial set of rules collectively known as Ordnung.  These rules give strict guidelines to the Amish people on how to conduct themselves both publicly and privately.  The rules vary somewhat between different pockets of Amish throughout the North America, which isn’t surprising considering the Ordnung is not written down anywhere.  Rather, these traditions are passed on from one generation to the next verbally and changes to these traditions are occasionally made by each group, trying to balance traditions with the changing world.
  • Within their own communities, the Amish typically do not speak English, unless outsiders are present.  Most Old Order Amish speak Pennsylvania Dutch, which is a dialect of German.  The children are taught English at a very young age, but typically speak this German dialect among each other and sermons are always given in German.
  • Among the Amish, weddings always take place on Tuesdays or Thursdays in November or December, after the harvest is complete.  Courtship typically begins at church.  When a boy decides to court a girl, he will ask her to let him give her a ride on his buggy after church.  They will then continue courting one another in a secretive manner until only a few days to two weeks before they are to be wed.  At that time, their commitment to be married is announced in the church.  The wedding does not take place in the church, but rather at the home of the bride.  In their weddings, which typically last about four hours, the bride and groom do not kiss or exchange rings, like in traditional Western style weddings, though there is a reception afterward where the community will get together and eat to celebrate the newlyweds.
  • The Amish give every member of their community the chance to leave and even often encourage them to do so for a time.  When Amish children turn 16 years old, they are encouraged to go live and experience modern life among the “English”.  If you’ve ever lived near an Amish community, you’ll often find these teens getting drunk, doing drugs, having sex with random people, and generally trying to cram a lifetime of such acts into the span of a few months.  Once they’ve had their fill of this, they can choose to remain among the “English” or return to the Amish community.  If they chose to return to the community as official members, they are expected to marry and remain among the Amish for the rest of their lives and abide by the strict rules of the community and the precepts of the Bible.  The vast majority of these young Amish choose to return to their communities.  Once they do so, they are baptized for the second time in their life, being previously baptized at birth, and will pledge themselves to the Amish way of living.  Those who leave are no longer considered Amish, as to them being Amish is not an ethnic designation, but rather is a matter of faith, though Amish children are still considered Amish, even though they are too young to be members of the church.  The few who decide to cease being Amish typically will leave and join Mennonite church communities among the “English”, as they have similar religious beliefs owing to the Amish having broken off from the Swiss Mennonites in the early 18th century.
  • If a particular Amish group isn’t to the liking of one of their members, in terms of some rule or other, they will often seek out another Amish community that has slightly different rules than their existing one, trying to find one where the rules coincide with their way of thinking.  Most Amish communities have more or less the same core doctrines, but there are variations, such as how much modern technology to allow.  For instance, some communities allow for a community telephone to be placed in a public area on or just off of the group’s land, while other communities find this practice and abomination due to being too worldly.  Interestingly, groups of Amish have also been known to separate based on something as seemingly trivial to the outside world as the acceptable width of a hat-brim.
  • One of the reasons Amish goods are often extremely high quality is that they feel that all work they do should give glory to God and so producing something like a quilt that isn’t perfect as it can be would violate this precept.
  • Christmas among the Amish is a two day celebration.  The first day is comprised of celebrating Christ’s birth in a solemn, worshipful manner.  The next day, on December 26th, the people will visit family and friends and have traditional Christmas dinners and the like.
  • Interestingly, Amish people do not play musical instruments.  They are strictly forbidden in the Old Order Amish communities, being thought of as too worldly, owing to the fact that musical instruments being played illicits strong emotions from those listening and is a form of showing off, or standing out, by the person playing the instrument, which isn’t in concert with Amish humility.
  • The Amish get their name from Jakob Ammann, who lived from 1656-1730 and was a Swiss Mennonite leader who ended up creating a division among the Mennonites of the day. The group that followed him became the Amish or Amish Mennonites and the other group became known as the Swiss Mennonite Conference.
  • The Amish Mennonites came to North America in the 18th century to escape persecution and poverty.
  • The most common names for Amish people are: for men: John, Amos, Samuel, Daniel, and David; for women: Mary, Rebecca, Sarah, Katie, and Annie.
  • A typical day for an Amish man is as follows:
    • Get up around 5:00am.
    • Tend to the animals and milk the cows.
    • Pray and eat breakfast with the family.
    • Tend the fields (planting / harvesting / etc, depending on the season), with a break for lunch.
    • Milk the cows and tend to the animals once again in the evening.
    • At sunset, cease working and either visit with community members and family or go to bed.
  • A typical day in the life of an Amish woman is as follows:
    • Wake up around 5:00am.
    • Help out with milking and prepare breakfast.
    • Get the children, if any, ready for school.
    • If it’s laundry day, do the laundry, generally using a gas motor to power the wringer style washing machine.  Laundry day is typically Monday for many Amish communities.
    • Tend the garden and house; prepare the mid-day meal; can food / make jams / etc, depending on the season; make and repair clothing; prepare the evening meal; and other such household related tasks.
    • At sunset, like the men, they either visit with community members or their families, or go to bed.
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51 comments

  • Passivist should be spelled pacifist

  • You also said “grow bears”

  • As a former Amish I need to point out that while this may be right for some Amish groups, the one I grew up in, the Swartzentruber Amish, they stopped shaving their beard when they became members of the Church, which is at the time that they get baptized.

    Joe
    Amish.co

  • I would also mention that Amish infants are NOT baptized at birth or as children. Only when they choose to join the church.

  • MICHAEL!

    I now have a crush on you Daven.

  • Another bonus factoid: “Pennsylvania Dutch” is just a misspelling of Pennsylvania Deutsch; the German word for “German” so Holland has nothing to do with it.

  • @Joe Hi, I’m sure there is lots of reasons why someone would leave, but sometimes I find myself wondering how I could live such a life. I am really drawn to it. (0:

  • Given the Amish architectural style, you probably meant to write “a secretive manner” rather than “a secretive manor”….

  • What’s the source for your assertion that “few men in the Western world choose to grow mustaches”? Unless you’re talking about men from specific regional, class or racial backgrounds I don’t see how that is anything more than an opinion. Whether or not you have a source, the assertion itself is irrelevant and unnecessary for the article’s content.

  • Should be “strictly forbade”…past tense….

  • Why are so many of these comments just about spelling mistakes…
    In other news, your website is awesome.

  • Because of hitler

  • The Amish r only baptized once. That is after they turn 16 and want to come back to church. I know because I’m Amish.

  • Muslims Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) Said about mustaches shave it off.

  • TA January 8, 2011 at 4:25 am – Reply
    Passivist should be spelled pacifist

    Daven Hiskey January 8, 2011 at 6:07 am – Reply
    @TA: Good catch. I’ll be firing my proof reader… wait…. that’s me. Hmmm… maybe just a good flogging then. ;-)

    **************
    What a decent fellow you are, Mr Hiskey.
    You could have bluffed it by pointing out the difference between being pacifist and passivist (Google can be your friend).
    But, then again, that yearning for a flogging!
    We understand.

  • “Most Old Order Amish speak Pennsylvania Dutch, which is a dialect of German.” It might be worth mentioning that “Dutch” in this case doesn’t mean “Holland” but “Deutsch,” the German word for “German.”

    Also, “…nstruments being played illicits strong emotions…” “Illicit” is an adjective, not a verb; the word you’re looking for is “elicits.”

  • Wow, you folks are just relentless on the grammar and spelling. Cool article, spelling mistakes and all.

  • This article does not appear to be extremely accurate..further, it seems somewhat slanderous. First of all, suggesting that any Christian people send their children out to get their fill of sin is ridiculous. It seems rather something that worldly outsiders would want to believe. While there may be some who go outside and then decide whether or not they want to stay or return, it does not mean that Amish people in general have a hedonistic holiday until they have their “fill” and then decide to return. This appears to be a regular propagandish statement passed around about them and something that worldy people seem to enjoy repeating. I think it is so that they can justify their own sinfulness…
    Further, the part about the instruments…they think it would be a distraction in church, but suggesting that they don’t allow strong emotions is ridiculous. They are real, normal people, you know – not some freaks. In case you are wondering, I am not Amish, but live near them.

    • Daven Hiskey

      @Pete: Having lived next to and got to know Amish people in my youth, I can tell you that beyond the sources cited, the article is very accurate.

    • this article is very accurate. i was pleasantly surprised to read an article about Amish that is so close to the truth. i have a lot of very close Amish friends, although i’m not Amish myself.

  • Dear Daven,
    Perhaps the ones in YOUR neighborhood are different from the ones in mine. No one can suggest that all any-“type”-of-people are the same. The ones here make “normal” people look rather horrible in comparison. I live near them right now. They are very educated and respectable – and they are even rather aware of what the rest of society is doing. And you know what, I think I just saw one experiencing what you may call strong emotions just the other day. And no one acted like it was strange.
    The ones I am referring to are from the Kentucky area. Where are yours, so we can know? The ones where I am don’t even have a way of going to the “outside world” and living there for a while (deep rural area), nor would their parents think it normal to give them the necessary funds to go on the hedonistic holiday you describe. They would think the idea was nuts. Further, the young men, being Christians, would not really be excited about having a used-up woman for a wife. You know, those old-fashioned ideas about marrying virgins. I am also curious where the youths of you area get these funds to rent an expensive pad in the city to party…
    And as there are apparently different Amish groups, I can’t help but wonder why everyone is convinced all of a sudden (in the last 10 years or so) that they ALL go out to get their fill of sin before they decide to become Amish.

  • One more thing, the ones here appear to get married before they are even old enough to buy alcohol. I can only imagine that those in your area are near a college or something, such that they can get into a frat party to get booze underage. That is certainly not even possible here…

    • @Pete…wow are you judgemental!!
      Daven mentioned more than once that there are differences among the Amish, which you basically corroborated, and then you give him crap for his experience (and research) not being the exact same as yours?
      chill out and don’t be so petty and negative..

  • Typo: “…a secretive manor” (manner). Also, you mentioned lunch but not supper. Do the Amish have an evening meal?

  • I know it was 3 am, but this is not an excuse at all. You could’ve proofread it the next day before you published some unfinished stuff. Always quality before quantity. “Few men in the Western world” means men from all cultures in the Western world. Although we can guess, this phrase doesn’t make any sense.

    • dude, what do you get out of being insulting?
      in the grand scheme of things, who cares about a few spelling or grammatical errors!!

  • I thought the reason why Amish don’t have mustaches was because they were German/Scandinavian Descendant, and most (not all) German and other parts of central Europe had that lack in upper facial hair growth, some examples are R.Wagner had an extreme neck beard so did Nero who was from northern Italy.

  • I live in central pa I live among the Amish.. They do in fact go out and so their oats so to speak..and some have regular jobs ..well they do carpentry work with an English person as there driver .coworker

  • Daven, thanks for the article. I really enjoyed the bonus facts. It’s all very fascinating.

  • It is a very good article.

    About some of the controversies… I was born Amish 60 years ago (Swartzentruber)… moved through various communities as a young man to find a fit, before deciding that the Faith did not fit with me. But I kept links, because one cannot truly cut off one’s roots… and kept the mustache-less beard. You are always welcome in Amish communities, even if you do not belong to the Faith anymore, so long as you are respectful. Amish do not try to push their beliefs and most are willing to discuss different views if it is done in a not oppositional way. In my experience many Amish churches encourage male youths to go and visit the Englisch (much less so with females youths) so that they will fully join the community in complete assent and not out of ignorance. But not all encourage this.

    And I am mystified by the comments of Pete above… he comes from a very judgemental standpoint, talking a lot of sin as he looks on his Amish neighbours from the outside. No Amish that I know would ever judge the sins of others. It is only for the church to judge the sins of her members, but no further. It would be lovely that when somebody speaks of the Amish he or she avoided such righteous standpoints as Pete expressed.

    As for the grammar corrections, they have their place. Words are important. When words and their meaning get mixed up, which happens when things are written incorrectly, they muddle people’s perception. Worse, when we say that correct grammar is unimportant and should be overlooked (Crussel, Matt), we are saying that a sloppy work is acceptable and welcome. Forgive me for being still very Amish in this.

    And to compound it: illicit in “musical instruments being played illicits strong emotions” should be elicits. Illicit means “not allowed”, elicit means “to bring forth”.

    Thank you for the article Mr. Hiskey.

  • The Amish community really fascinates me. So simple… they must have high intelligence and be driven by god. I live in a large city` but I wish to adopt some of their practices. I would love to have a large wood oven stove! In case of a blackout- it would avail you to have heat and cooked food. Some of their heirloom seeds are simply amazing to grow and I want to try them all. I am not sure If I could adapt to the clothing well- but I plan on purchasing furniture from some of the craftsmen. The quality is simply the best. We had hired Amish roofers last year to redo our roof- they have left the Amish community. Simply the best quality and most affordable for us. I feel that if you want top quality products for your home- or a healthier way of living and more off the grid. We need to adopt a more Amish lifestyle. Easy to say- but takes time and money to implement when you have lived in a large city. The baking and roasts- all taste much better when cooked under open flame. I admire them all- I am learning so much from them. If we were to have a world war- the Amish will survive more than anyone else. They can live off the grid without electricity better than no one else. They deserve everyone’s appreciation- we think we are so wise- but without electricity most would seize to exist. I do not want to become Amish- but certainly plan on adopting many of what they seem to better than any other- live off the grid!

    As for the speling tst- onestly- if I have any i promise i wil try to be a s prfty as you!

  • Beautiful summary. I’ve read the comments above, and maybe a thing or two is not correct, but to me it sounds respectful enough.

    About Christmas being two days: I wonder why you mention it. That’s the normal situation, isn’t it? The 25th is for the services in church, the 26th is for social activities. And I did not grow up in a special religious community, I am from just an average family in The Netherlands.

    Sorry for grammar and spelling: English is my 4th language.

    • No, at least not in Canada & the United States, which is where the Amish live. December 25th is *the day*, and it’s for family (Catholics have a mass at midnight as well). In the US, Christmas Eve is also a day off. In Canada, December 26th is Boxing Day, which is generally “celebrated” by shopping, with stores holding steep sales.

      I understand that lots of people go to a special church service on Christmas Eve in the US, but it’s not universal and even if you do that’s not an all-day thing.

  • question .
    When the USA had the draft for the Armed Forces , Where the Amish excluded from this or did they have to serve in non combat rolls ie admin r other ?????

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