Only Family Authorized to Wear Beards in the Brazilian Army Ends Century-Old Tradition

The fifth generation of Manoeis Theophilos abandoned military destiny to live off music

Manoel Theophilo Gaspar de Oliveira Filho is the grandson of Manoel Neto. His great-grandfather is Filho and also namesake of five other Manoeis in his family tree. The traditions of the Theophilo family are intertwined with the history of the Army.

The only family authorized to wear beards in the Army, the Theophilos ended the legend of the bearded soldier — after the first Manoel of five generations decided to trade the military destiny for music.

The first Brazilian Manoel Theophilo (1816-1859) was born in Fortaleza (CE). He was the son of a Portuguese merchant and, in Brazil, was an influential politician, mayor of his hometown in 1849.

The second Manoel (1849-1894) was the first military man in the family. The only images of Manoel —the second— show long beards and mustaches at a time when facial hair was still encouraged by Army regulations.

The second Manoel had the third, Manoel Theophilo Gaspar de Oliveira Filho (1885-1941); as his wife could not conceive, Filho decided to adopt his own nephew, Manoel Theophilo Neto (1924-2008), to keep the tradition.

He was the first to experience the transition of the Army's internal regulations, which began to prohibit the wearing of beards after World War I.

It was only with the established and enforced norm that cadet Manoel Theophilo (1950) entered the Army in Fortaleza —the fifth in the family, fourth military.

He did not wear a beard at the beginning of his career because he feared contradicting his superiors. Manoel only gained the courage when the Minister of the Army inspected a line of soldiers in Natal and found Theophilo, already a lieutenant, with a non-standard mustache.

The request to grow a beard was only formalized six years later, in 1982.

Homem de barba e farda, com paraquedas preso às costas, recebe beijo de criança
Manoel Theophilo Filho meets his father after a parachute jump at a military ceremony. - Arquivo pessoal

An inquiry was opened to investigate the Theophilos' bearded tradition. They requested photos, paintings, and various records.

"Considering the deep-rooted and proven family tradition of five generations, which obliges the males with the same name as the applicant to wear a beard, I hereby grant the following order: approved, on an exceptional basis," said the Army Bulletin on March 22, 1982.

Today, Manoel Theophilo Gaspar de Oliveira Filho, the son of the fifth, is a piano teacher and does not intend to have a grandson. "[The tradition] will end. It was something that happened naturally."

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