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Hoops Versus Whiskers

Manitoba Pageant, January 1962, Volume 7, Number 2

This article was published originally in Manitoba Pageant by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make it available here as a free, public service.

Please direct inquiries to webmaster@mhs.mb.ca.

A letter to the Editors of the Nor'Wester in 1861:

Gentlemen:- Your interesting paper would be tenfold more interesting to us young ladies, if now and then you discussed such important topics as those affecting looks and dress. I will be honest, the great object of my life is to get a good husband. Paley says this is a legitimate, natural, praiseworthy object. Old maids profess not to admit this; but with all respect for these matronly misses I doubt their sincerity.

With all young ladies, of a certain age, looks and not books form the daily concern. I presume it is so with young gentlemen too, though few would be so honest as confess it. Now, in our various attempts at good-looking some of us betake ourselves to "hoops," and some of the sterner sex to immense long, bushy whiskers. Which is worse? I protest against being caged; I belong to the old school, in the matter of crinoline; but does my beau think that he fascinates me with his patriarchal goatee? Alas! The goatee is a proverbial oddity, and is none the less queer by imitating the goat. And those who sport this beard always remind me of this mock-heroic little animal.

It was the Spartan law that imposed a heavy tax on old bachelors; they were right in this, though too severe in other enactments. Bachelors ought not to be allowed to live - excuse - I meant they ought not to be allowed to enjoy civil rights or social position; and they ought to be heavily taxed. If this were done, I would soon have the opportunity of saying Yea or Nay. As it is, I am allowed to sigh and pine in a very provoking way. But this is not my topic just now. At present, I insist on young gentlemen using the razor, or at least the scissors. Philologists say the Lombards (Longobardi) derived their name from the long beard of their ancestors.

Photo: These unidentified portraits from the Provincial Archives illustrate the styles of the 1860s. Courtesy of Provincial Archives.

Well, I vow that if a Red River lombard troubles me with any questions, I will say No - not until you clip your wings. I am hasty, and strong too; and if I gave my heart and hand to such a one, that very hand would, on our first rumpus, seize hold of the tuft, in a way known to Indian dames alone. Now this would be serious for my "worse half" for he might thereby lose his crop without the help of razor or scissors. And let us suppose (what would be far more likely in my case) that "my own" and myself would be such a loving couple as frequently to indulge — a — kiss. How could this delicate operation be accomplished when a dense forest intervened? I fear I should have to exercise self-denial, or rise before the lark some morning and try what a lucifer match could do.

Excuse me, Gentlemen, for this nonsense. But my verdict is that bad as our hoops may be, an unreasonable beard is fully worse. What say you?

I am, yours truly, MADEMOISELLE. St. Andrew's Parish, September 12th.

Page revised: 1 July 2009

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