Apropos of Nothing: Beardsters are Taking Over
An Editorial by Jamie Beckett

Beard culture has taken over the nation in recent years. What was once passé is now all the rage. Other than Kenny Rogers, Kenny Loggins, and a few random Kennys here and there, almost nobody wore a beard in the 80s or 90s. The 70s ruined that all for mankind. It took a couple decades to get the image of Mick Jagger with the lumberjack beard out of our heads. Those were dark days.

Today every Ajax, Blaze, and Zander are making some sort of personal style statement via their facial hair. Long beards, braided beards, fluffy beards, spikey beards. There’s even a store at the mall now that sells beard supplies.

These people are beyond hipsters, they’re beardsters. It’s getting weird out there.

Now I’ll admit, I have a beard myself. Actually, I’ve had one for more than 40 years, it’s just that until a few years ago I kept cutting it off every morning. Well, not every morning. Like most young men, I fell prey to the 80s fad of only shaving every third or fourth day to get that ever so fashionable scruffy look that George Michael and Don Johnson did so well with.

Somehow I never reached that level of cool. Go figure.

Like Abraham Lincoln, I came to beardville later in life at the invitation of a young girl. In my case, my youngest daughter. After one of those flirtations with the scruffy look, my little princess pleaded with me, “Oh please, Daddy. Grow a big, lush, wonderful beard.”

In retrospect she may have said this in October, thinking no doubt that my Santa Claus-like powers might be accentuated by a longer, more traditional beard. I fell for it and haven’t shaved since.

The idea of a traditional beard is somewhat frightening, by the way. Have you ever come across a barber’s beard trimming chart from the 19th century? They’re terrifying. The follicle artwork that can be worn on one’s face have been given specific names that defy all logic and reason. There is the Leg O’ Mutton, which describes something that looks like unruly sideburns that have gone unnoticed for far too long. The Burnsides Short and Burnsides Full go even further, connecting the sideburns via a mustache, but avoid any growth of whiskers on the chin. The short version is bad. The full version involves a veritable thicket of unrestrained growth on the cheeks and upper lip of a man who I assume lives a very lonely life, devoid of women (who have an innate sense of style, which the Burnsides Full wearer apparently does not).

The Patrician evokes nothing so much as a ZZ Top festival, and the Sage Brush looks something like a mop head pasted to the chin of some poor fellow who is enduring a sad, pathetic practical joke.

There are mustaches galore, too. In modern times men know to avoid a mustache entirely unless they can pull off a plausible Tom Selleck, or Sam Elliot. This memo never made it through the portals of time to the late 1800s, however. Men back then were covering their upper lip with the Pennant, the Spartan (which is anything but spartan), the Vidette, and the Picador. For those who were really on the fence between a simple mustache and the full beard, they had the Imperial, which involved a mustache honed to a sharp point on each end, along with a soul patch on the lower lip that would make Greg Allman’s look positively sparse.

If I had to name the beard I wear today, it would be The Lazy Shaver. My beard serves no function other than to save me a few minutes in the morning, keep my face a bit warmer on cold nights, and perhaps gives me an unearned and totally unjustified look of distinction that would be dispelled immediately if anyone actually took the time to engage me in conversation.

Mine is a fine, short beard, though. It’s practical but nothing special. It’s certainly nothing to brag about. Not when you measure mine against my brother Stanley and sister Rose. They’ve both got far more lush and finely styled facial hair to work with than I ever will.

I guess I got the short end of the stick, again. Oh well, I’ll just muddle along as best I can, with the third best facial hair in the family, and an old guy gray beard look that the young guys all have beat by a mile.