Whenever something piques my interest I tend to see it everywhere I go. You’ll know what I mean: like whenever you really want to buy something you’ll see it or be reminded of it everywhere you look. I remember once being obsessed with buying a C Class Mercedes and then finding that I would see them being driven everywhere. I also remember (very recently) going through a phase of wanting to own a pair of Air Jordan’s and finding that they were worn by virtually the entire population! However, what was happening here was just the brain’s way of manipulating the mind into working out strategies to get something.
Ever since I made the decision to grow a beard, exactly the same thing happened: everywhere I looked people had beards. Initially, I felt vindicated in that there was now a growing male pride behind allowing nature to take its course in relation to facial hair. A few years later I find myself feeling slightly territorial when I see people trying to join the club, or even worse, resentful that a symbol of manliness has become the latest fashion accessory.
Beards are nothing new. Moses and co were rocking them back in Exodus days, no doubt because it would have been too long and too dangerous to shave back then given the need to be time efficient when escaping etc. Throughout the generations, beards have been a symbol of great wisdom, strength and manliness. This is evidenced in so many ways: just look at a picture of an old king or watch Lord of the Rings and the cleverest wizard will always have a beard. Somehow, despite the symbolism, beards suddenly became an inconvenience. I blame the Romans for this. The innovative Romans came up with safe ways of removing facial hair and being clean shaven fast became a symbol of great wealth and status. If you look back at the busts of some of the greatest Roman Emperors nearly all of them are clean shaven. If you had a beard during the Roman era this usually meant you couldn’t afford to shave or you were a Barbarian ready to sack the city.
In a way, Roman attitudes on beards have survived to this day. Having a beard, to some, is a sign of scruffiness or poverty. This is demonstrated mostly in the corporate environment. Some places are even known to have policies preventing men from having beards, demanding that their male staff are clean shaven. While my current place of work doesn’t have such an absurd policy, it did cross my mind that my beard would not be approved at work, which meant I took a risk in growing it. How did it get to this? Is it because of bitterness from men who are unable to grow beards? Is it because most women prefer a man without a beard? I’m unclear.
The reason I decided to grow my beard was because being clean shaven causes awful razor bumps – being a black man and all. Laziness is also a relevant factor – sometimes I can’t be bothered to pick up the clippers or go to my barber to trim my face. Another reason is that the girlfriend seems to like it, although given the fact she once proclaimed to hate beards I will take full credit for that.
Provided my beard is in reasonable condition I’ll not be the subject of barbed comments at work or amongst friends. It could be that because I’m one of the very few black people in my office nobody would risk saying anything, or it could be that there’s a societal acknowledgement of a shift towards beards becoming more acceptable. Since I’ve had my beard, a heartening contingent at work have joined me (look at me being the trend setter..). For some of these people however, the regrettable abuse comes raining in which inevitably results in the beard disappearing the next day. Encouragingly, some do hold their ground and keep their beards, almost in protest.
Designer stubble, what the hell is that?
Beards have evolved in good ways, but also in terrible ways. Now, designer stubble is all the rage, but if it’s not pulled off can look like the man in question is in the midst of puberty and is afraid of blades. Full beards can look excellent and distinguished, but can also make you look like an extra in a film about Vikings, or even worse, a tramp.
People should be allowed to have pride in their beards at work, or anywhere else, without the fear of offending someone. We should be allowed to choose whether we keep our facial hair or not and not be at the mercy of corporate or societal rules. Beards can be done well if care is taken to maintain them, and if we take care of them we can write the wrongs of the Romans by bringing them back and making sure they stay.