The Beard

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(Want one? You can buy a Beard Can Coozie here)

It started as just one of those odd hipster trends, the kind that usually pass within a short period of time because they are just so unfathomable. But lately, I’ve been seeing it more and more, and not just in Williamsburg and Bushwick (which autocorrect just turned into “Bushwhack,” proving that autocorrect has not been there in the past few years). It’s the beard. And not just any beard. The giant, bushy, holdover from the 1860s, shell-shocked Civil War veteran or moonshining, gold-mining homesteader beard. It’s the beard of someone who really doesn’t care about personal grooming – say, a man grieving for a wife who died of consumption, or the Unabomber. And somehow, it’s a thing.

Where did the trend come from? Well, Brooklyn’s Mast Brothers, of Mast Brothers Chocolate, otherwise known as The Chocolate You Need A Trust Fund To Afford Because It’s Got Really Nice Wrapping, were sporting the beard back in 2010, as you can see in this promotional video, in which they try to seem unassuming and cute (they’re showing us their bloopers!) while still appearing fairly full of shit. The beards are clearly part of their whole shtick, which is meant to hark back to an earlier era when things were, I guess, more artisanal, and people sailed on boats with masts (get it???) to the places where cacao comes from — places to which we can now travel much faster, in more comfort, and without having to worry about scurvy. Have you detected that I am not a fan? The Mast Brothers and their products have the lethal combination of being pretentious, overpriced, and representative of the gentrification of Brooklyn, which is guaranteed to make me dislike them — and now, add to that the fact that they were trendsetters when it comes to this particular fashion. It’s an explosion of “ugh” in my mouth.

Apparently, the trend has taken off so much that men from Brooklyn are now paying for beard transplants (I love this article in particular for the description of the look as a “a lumberjack-meets-roadie hybrid.”) Now, however, The Beard is officially everywhere. There’s hardly a day that goes by when I don’t see one (and of course I’m not including the ones I see being worn by the Hassidim or the Muslims in my neighborhood – although there are some striking similarities in terms of length and styling).

Now, we’ve seen a lot of trends for men come out of hipsterdom, all of them fairly annoying. Skinny pants. Checked shirts. Geeky glasses. The popularity of Pabst Blue Ribbon. While the beard trend was growing, we had the handlebar mustache, which clearly comes from the same seed of a stupid idea, but even the hipsters conceded it was just too ridiculous to stick around all that long. The Beard, however, seems to irk me more than any of these. Part of it’s the fact that it’s so impractical, especially during the summer we’ve been experiencing here in New York; seeing guys in these huge, facial muffs on a hot, humid day just makes me that much more sweaty and itchy. Part of it’s that The Beard seems so hypocritical, a counter-culture statement against modern urban life by people who are choosing to live in the epicenter of modern urban life – because, seeing as Williamsburg hasn’t been cheap or uncrowded for about ten years, why would you move there now unless you really really wanted that? And, part of it’s the fact that this trend has now been around long enough that it’s worked its way into celebrity culture (although generally in a more styled and sane-looking iteration) and thereby the general population, despite the fact that it really just doesn’t look good on anyone. I mean, men like Michael Fassbender and Chiwetel Ejiofor can look good in anything, but must they prove that by choosing to wear beards that look like nothing so much as the remains of two squirrels that decided to curl up and die on the lower halves of their faces? And I am no enemy of facial hair. The stubble, the light beard, the goatee, even the soul patch, I have at times found all of them attractive on the right face (although I just couldn’t help but point at the chins of my friends who had soul patches and say, “Hey, I think you missed a spot.” Hahahahaha, it’s hilarious every time!) But this giant, steel-wool-resembling, food-scrap-attracting, uneven and unkempt look from another era or another way of life says nothing sexy to me at all, unless you find survivalist hermits sexy. It even makes Jude Law look like something has gone seriously wrong in his life. Jude, what is it? Should we get you some help??

I think the thing that bugs me the most, though, is that The Beard is clearly a look that came about in order to be worn ironically. Men, or at least straight men, can do that: they can choose a look that many of us would consider kind of bad, or at least unflattering, on purpose, in order to make some sort of statement about…well, maybe something but also maybe nothing aside from the fact that they don’t care how they look. But women? Most of us really can’t, or at least absolutely won’t, make the choice to even dress ironically, much less make something so permanent and noticeable as a hair change, for the sake of waxing sardonic. Yes, women have for years made choices in terms of hair and dress in order to carve out identities for themselves outside the mainstream culture (think Annie Lenox, Grace Jones, Cindy Lauper, Sinead O’Connor…hmm, maybe this only happened in the 80s and 90s), and this is particularly true when it comes to race and sexual preference (choosing natural hair, or a more “boyish” or “butch” look). But they also do it to look good. And would they ever do it for satire, a clever aside, particularly if it did not look good? No way. Because for us, appearance is way too important to fuck around with. Women just don’t make ourselves look bad on purpose, because looking good is too damn important to us for just about everything. You have to look good to get hired and then you have to look good to keep your job or get promoted. Very often, at least if you are of a certain age, you have to look good to have friends. And, most of all, you have to look good to be attractive. Whether the people you’re trying to attract are men or women, and whatever the look might be that attracts them in your particular community, making yourself able to attract someone you want to be with is of the highest priority for women. That’s why even on Halloween, the night when you are supposed to dress up as something that you aren’t, most women wouldn’t be caught dead in a costume that makes them look less than 100% sexy. That’s why you see so many hot witches and nurses wandering the streets on October 31st, whereas you see men running around with blood and eyeballs oozing down their faces, or even just horrible fake boobs and wigs, and entirely not giving a shit that they look disgusting — in fact, that’s the point. 

Now, I know I spent my last post griping about the tyranny of Resting Bitch Face, so let’s not beat this point to death. But really, though, I am sick of The Beard and its attitude of not caring that is really extreme caring about being on trend, about being hip and ironic, because, seriously, why else would you have that thing? Can we please move on to something that you’re not carrying around on your face to make your friends think you’re cool and your mother upset and as another way to show your girlfriend that you can hold on to your independence/immaturity, like being on a kickball team and riding a fixie? You’ve made your point fellas, now grow the fuck up and admit that irony isn’t something you should wear on your face.

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