I originally composed this as ‘Facial Hair’ but, the more I thought about it, the more I realised what an enormous subject that truly is. So, I’ve started with the big one: Beards.
Beards are the oddest of all stylistic accessories. They are theoretically accessible to any man (and some women of course), so are the epitome of an inclusionist option, but they are taken up by very few. This is because, even though they are an entirely natural and organic part of our physical make-up, they are treated as a style point and consequently go in and out of fashion.
Back in the 60s, 70s and 80s it was entirely acceptable for a cut-and-thrust young man about town, to sport a total chin-covering beard. In the 60s and 70s particularly the massiveness of the beard was encouraged, to the very limits of the chin’s ability to sprout. In the 80s however, and here’s where the warning signs started to be seen for the beard’s imminent demise, there was the filthy descent into designer stubble, so let’s start there.
Designer Stubble – Shocking stuff. Favoured by American TV cops and George Michael. Has all the appearance of a tea bag having been opened up onto someone’s face, which had already been covered in mayonnaise, and carries all the appeal that that has. The idea that one would sculpt this merest of growth, and then trimming it like the front lawn, is preposterous. Only now ever mentioned in piss-taking fashion about someone’s weekend stubble, so thankfully gone I feel.
Goatee – A well known, and actually quite old, piece of face sculpture. Can look OK actually, but you need the cheekbones and jawline for it. The problems come when your second chin is visible below the goatee. Then stop it. Also, to be worn, without a ‘tache, on its own is risky. Few can manage it, and you aren’t one of them.
Chinstrap – This is bloody silly. Basically a tiny line of fuzz that follows the jawline. Tiny. It’s so stupid I just can’t be bothered.
Underbeard – I think these are grown for two reasons. 1: to show off that you can. 2: to cover up shaving rash or massive second chin. Either way they draw more attention to it and make everyone think you’ve got something that’s gone wrong. Which, of course, you have.
The Grace – Favoured by WG Grace this is the long beard that just says ‘fuck off’ to everything. Only to be worn by old, wealthy men who are interested in politics, war and cricket and have done them all. Oh, and Rasputin, who was the ultimate badass.
Fat Man’s Beard – As odd as their propensity for shorts-wearing in all weather is the fat male’s habit of cultivating their facial hair. They never really grow a beard, they actually just allow it to develop and either can’t be bothered to get rid of it, or they use it as a distraction method. It just shows them up, it’s awful wrong.
No ‘Stache – A proud, Quaker-ish affair that is used by a few distinct and impressive men. Obviously these people are mostly mental and generally people think of Michael Eavis with this. I prefer to think of mid-Western American loners.
Full Beard – Now, here we go. The Full Beard, joining sideburns and moustache in its coverage, is a marvellous thing. It it large, noble and proud. Where it can fall down is if it’s wispy. A wispy beard of great size is quite poor showing and should really be totally reconsidered by the owner. I would concede to the need for a shave here. This problem is especially prevalent for ginger men, but the issue is really neither here nor there for those poor bastards.
I’ve never worn a beard, because I have a couple of tiny patches where stubble doesn’t form, so I need to go past a couple of weeks of messiness to get to the good bit. Women, astonishingly, don’t like this much. They call it messy and complain about scratching. I think everyone needs to take a long look at themselves and get their damn priorities right.
Beard, after all, equals success.