Are beards the new black?
On Saturday night I met a guy with an extremely thick and well-groomed beard. This was no ordinary beard. It was a conversation starter. And the owner of the beard, seeing the gleaming, hypnotic look on my face, generously offered for me to touch it. A conversation ensued in which he told me that while ex-girlfriends and other women keep telling him that he shouldn’t cover his cute face up with an unsightly beard, he actually thinks he looks a whole lot more handsome. He then seemed unimpressed when I asked him if he felt more manly or even a tad animalistic with his hirsute accessory, as if I had asked him the obvious question. Well, c’mon..! I do think that a big part of the appeal with a beard is the feeling that there is something slightly animalistic about it.
I distinctly remember a friend once expressing this attraction in its most guttural form, when she exhaled into her Mai Tai: “Rub your moustache all over my body!” while eyeing a piratesque man with a handsome moustache at the bar in the middle distance. She will remain unnamed, but I think she hit the nail on the head, or rather, the hair.
Stylish beards have been cropping up in interesting places over the last few years, especially on the indie scene, and with specialist men’s barber emporiums like Barnet Fair opening in Cape Town, guys seem to be taking their baards a bit more seriously. There are, of course, a couple of men that make it look real good. Like every girl’s favourite indie eccentric, Devendra Banhart, whose facial fur makes him look part sage, part beatnik, part babe.
And Raymond Raposa of freak folk San Diego band, The Castanets (whose beard and hair could do with a turn at Barnet Fair, but who certainly gets points for earnest eyes and sheer fullness/furriness).
And my local favourite, Disco Izrael from P.H. Fat (far right). His beard has since filled out. With undertones of Benicio Del Torro and a rebel thug thing going on, the beard just works for him. The other guys seem to have beard-like arrangements, too, but I met Disco at Rocking the Daisies last year and he drunkenly told me that he thought I was ‘mad pretty’, so he gets my vote.
Stylish beards are a lot bigger in Europe and America than they are in South Africa, and I don’t mean in size and impressiveness, as the following picture might have you believe.
This profuse specimen belongs to the man that started it all. Jack Passion, two time winner of the World Beard and Moustache Championships and author of the indispensible Facial Hair Handbook, is something of a folk hero in America. I’m not sure if its the beard that makes him so enigmatic, but Wikipedia says that
‘Mr. Passion is reputed to either live in San Francisco or Walnut Creek, California’.
Love it. Passion is an entrepreneur, rock musician and hero to beard-lovers the world over. He perfectly embodies the rockabilly edge that a ginger beard lends to a man, doesn’t he? I can just feel my mother cringing. Granted, I don’t think I’d like to wake up with this… appendage… on my pillow, or anywhere near my person, for that matter, but it does imbue The Passion with a certain Samson-like charm.
Beards have gotten so cool that they are inspiring all sorts of great art (have a look online, its unbelievable how inspired people are by the abundance that beards represent; I especially find Beard Revue an amusing, left-of-centre read)…
The best thing about beards is that they are so provocative. Girls love ’em or they hate ’em. My mother always tells me how my father returned from the navy a ‘full-bearded madman’ and she seems to associate full beards with a slightly unhinged quality. And then there are girls out there that are beard fetishists, to whom the idea of a clean-shaven jaw is unmanly and unsexy. I think I could deal with it. Perhaps not to Passion-like proportions, but just think of Caleb Followill of Kings of Leon, with his new-fangled facial fur. Or our friend (and Natalie Portman’s ex) Devendra.
Beard and Wonderful indeed.