Have you ever stopped to consider what an age we live in when it comes to the ability to change and customise our appearance, how we look, and how as a result we are perceived by others? The options are seemingly limitless when you think about choices in clothing and attire, tattoo possibilities, surgery implemented bodily enhancements, the ability to reconstruct facial features and the almost endless combinations of jewellery, make up and accessories. But when you really think hard about it, the ideals for what is considered to be acceptable according to societal standards in our modern age when it comes to the appearances of men and women today are surprisingly limited.
I could go on and on about the constant battle between perception and acceptability and how each of us have differing opinions on the matter though general consensus tends to play a big part from time to time in what we come to refer to as trends. The specific area I am going to hone in on for this topic is that of a man’s facial hair – also known more commonly when fully developed as the face hugging, follicle monster that is the beard.
As a man fully flourished with copious amounts of facial fancy, I have been growing the hair on my face for many years now and thus I can confidently write about something that I have and have had a great deal of knowledge and experience with. I’ve been bearded up for quite a while now and generally get by without too much fuss coming my way regarding any state of intent toward it, positive or negative.
Sometimes I may receive the odd comment from those from the older generations along the lines of ‘When are you shaving that off then?’ Other times I get an envy fuelled compliment asking how I managed to achieve such abundance indicating that there are in fact some men amongst us who struggle to achieve the levels of growth that we as fabulous fuzz connoisseurs take for granted. I bow my beard to you good sir and I wish you luck in your pilgrimage in search of a suitable chin chiselled sasquatch.
In my honest opinion, to have a face full of hair, no matter the quantity, is a man’s natural state. When you take away the centuries of grooming habits we have all developed over time and take us into a dimension where vanity does not exist amongst our people, those men will undoubtedly all have beards or facial hair to some degree. And yet it is still, and has been for many decades now, considered the norm to shave all of it completely off until we regress to how we looked as children. A similar argument could be made for societies overbearing expectations toward women in that they are generally pressured to feel unusual and alienated unless they remove all of the hair from their arm pits and legs and I can partially understand this demanding and inherently unnecessary so called ‘requirement’ of a modern women to fit to these standards of the perception of what we consider suitable. They should not have to do that to suit anyone unless they actually desire to do so and neither should we as men.
In my younger days I was taught that a man should be prim and proper by shaving every day to look their best. Fucking why? Why should I have to alter how I look for anyone else?
The main difference between the above requirements of our female counterparts and us men is that these areas they choose to deplete of body hair can be hidden beneath clothing whereas my face tends to be front and centre most parts of every day. Unless it is night, chilly, snuggle blanket time but this is understandable. You can sod those scarves right off as well! Shaving the same area every day for anyone can severely irritate the skin and leave you all red and blotchy in your search for this perception of appropriate. Do you feel good about your itchy skin Mr Shavey Shaverson? Do you like scratching your neck every few minutes to relieve your irritation?
And don’t get me started on all of the infuriatingly bullshit information that having a beard comes with. No, beards are not itchy or dirty or secret habitats for small creatures! If yours does happen to be so then you are doing something very wrong my fellow hair hilted brother in beard-dom. In fact there are more benefits it seems to have one than to go without, but I’ll let you find that out for yourselves. I’m not your Wiki-beardia!
As I write this today, societies view of the mighty beard has relaxed somewhat. A trend has emerged in recent years where it has become acceptable to many who once considered them to be bestial spawn bastards of a facial abomination from a long lost primal era. The beard is here, so to speak. But as far as I am concerned it has always been here, it never left. Like a furry, fuzz ninja!
Overall, the perception of the beard is still a significant problem however when you consider the big picture. As fashionable as it may be considered to some, the facts still point to an inherent prejudice to us bearded folk. Go ahead and look up images relating to men of business, politics, education, leadership and so forth and you will start to see a familiar theme. Nine times out of ten they will be user friendly, clean shaven, suit and tie wearing, cut and copy iterations of what is considered to be ‘appropriate’ and ‘acceptable’ in these important areas of society. This prejudice also exists, and has existed, for women for a long time in many forms and as you can plainly see by walking into any store and asking to see the manager, if he is male then the chances are that he will be exactly as I have described above. So this prejudice is most certainly applicable to my gender as well.
Why do we force ourselves to fit into a mould of someone else’s creation just so that we can achieve something in our lives? I’m not saying that there aren’t beard replete, T-shirt wearing menfolk in positions of influence and power but there certainly doesn’t seem to be many of them. So am I to think that if I were to focus my attentions on trying to acquire one of these positions that I must suit up and beard down to do so? It is a shame to think that this may be the case.
Why the bloody hell should Santa Claus be the only one allowed to wield a beard of meticulous might and facial pride?
Maybe I am just looking too deeply into a subject that probably doesn’t cross the minds of many but if we take the core argument and generalise it to a broader spectrum of issues then the dispute still stands. Why should our appearance matter at all unless our chosen profession (actors for example) demands that it be altered?
I have always been comfortable with how I look and my bountiful beard is a big part of that. My beard beams and furiously bulges with the power of ten thousand hairs and nothing and no one can convince me that it should die at the behest of a razor blade unless I deem it to be so. You could call it my unspoken greeting of gruff diligence! As I mentioned previously a face full of hair is the natural state of any man old enough, and fortunate enough to have not succumbed to an ailment that prevents such growth, to be in a position to do so. Why be ashamed of it?
I shall not judge your smooth, prickly faces when the fad dies down and a million chins re-enter the world to gaze upon the light of the sun once more. All I ask is that you leave your beard-ceptions by the wayside and realise that not all men want to look like children.
Do yourselves a favour, go out into the world and find yourself a man with a beard. Then go up and have a good long stare at that bastion of elegance, style and grace – no, not the bloke himself, the actual beard. Gaze at the gallantry of his manly face sculpture and weep in awe. Unless it’s smelly due to negligence in which case just walk away and try again.
If you are still unsure about any of this then I have two simple words for you that will prove my point to a complete and absolute level of undoubted certainty – Brian Blessed!
All hail the beard!
Forged From Reverie.