What Are Sideburns?

Alex Tree

Also known as sideboards, sideburns are strips of facial hair that grow on the sides of a person’s face, usually about 0.5 inch (13 mm) before the ears. Many men enjoy growing and maintaining their sideburns, much like beards and mustaches. Sometimes people view the hair as unsightly or simply not in line with their current look and opt to remove it by waxing or shaving. Both men and women have this kind of hair, but it is significantly less noticeable on some people due to the fineness and color of their facial hair. The history of sideburns is full of different terms to describe the hair and the occasional law against them.

Using a manual razor can help shape sideburns.
Using a manual razor can help shape sideburns.

Both men and women, though primarily men in the Western world, attempt to grow and maintain sideburns. This type of facial hair usually grows at a different pace than the rest of a person’s scalp and facial hair, so maintenance can be tricky at times. One concern some people have when maintaining sideburns is their evenness. Ears can be different lengths, so it is important to judge sideburn length by paying attention to the sideburns and face instead of the ears. Men can use specialized trimmers and combs to separate sideburn facial hair from the rest of their hair and shape it into a desired length and style.

Sideburns may be groomed or removed with tweezers.
Sideburns may be groomed or removed with tweezers.

Many different options for removing sideburns exist, and some are more suited to specific situations than others. For instance, while men may shave their sideburns, some women are not comfortable with this option because it sometimes leaves behind visible hair and regrows quickly. Other options for sideburn removal include waxing, tweezing, and electrolysis. Tweezing can be a useful option when a person wants to remove a small amount of hair, while waxing and electrolysis can result in the prolonged absence of hair.

The sideburn has a lot of different names, but many of them are no longer in use. Originally, sideburns were called burnsides, after Ambrose Burnside, but like a lot of words, it eventually became corrupted and evolved into something new. Ambrose was a North American soldier known for wearing bushy burnsides with a shaved chin, which was seen as unusual. Since then, these patches of facial hair have gone in and out of fashion over hundreds of years. At one point, they were banned in certain regions of the world because they were viewed as a mark of extreme vanity.

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