The Argument: Beard or Nah?

Saturday is World Beard Day, but should you grow or say no?

Illustrations: Sabrina Scott


What do lumberjacks and the men’s look à la mode have in common? They both give us wood. No?

Okay then, we see where you’re coming from – like that joke, the beard could be accused of being a little bit played-out these days… Which is why we got a smooth operator and a beardo to battle it out.

The biggest men’s fashion accessory has officially jumped the shark. And it’s unfortunate for those men who have been wearing a beard for years to have something sacred sullied by the hordes of Johnny-come-latelies. Beards used to be reserved for blue-collar workers and guys covering up really bad acne scars, now they’re something you wear when fetishing over artisanal food, craft beer, whimsical folk music and plaid. And because the masses have been convinced to buy into the bearded look, it’s made it exactly that – a look – and is reason enough to rush home right now and shave. The ubiquity of the beard means that you can’t order a flat white these days without brushing up against one. According to the rule of Negative Frequency Dependence, where rare traits are favoured in a mate as a part of the evolutionary process, the animal that stands out from the crowd gets more attention. Now that beards have gone mainstream it means that if you’ve grown a beard you’re now blending with all of the other beards around you and you won’t stand out – you’ll simply look like part of one large Sasquatch. This shouldn’t be the case. They should still be reserved for a few, because not every man can grow a beard, some just don’t have the testosterone and it looks as if they’ve Pritted pubes to their face. Others don’t understand that there’s still basic grooming required and then walk around with the remains of that morning’s breakfast, subjecting passers-by to bits of corn-flake. Then there’s the dirty world of advertising where marketers have cottoned on to the epic power of the beard and are using it to sell everything from silly face-warmers, Beard Head, to a barrage of new beard primers and beard oils. Until this inanity wanes we need to put a moratorium on beards. Perhaps there should be a special license or some sort of practical test where the bald-faced man needs to first prove that he can service his own car, or open a beer bottle with his teeth, before being allowed to let himself grow. It’s like Roald Dahl says in The Twits: “What a lot of hairy-faced men there are around nowadays.”

There’s a name for a person without a beard – a woman. Okay, so the slightly chauvanistic and slightly-too-easy beard jokes aren't doing much for the reputation of the hirsute among us, but bear with me. The illustrious man-bib conjures up images of doing one-armed push-ups, upper-cutting a beef shank and then running up some steps before raising the arms in victory. The bearded man does not stock his bathroom cabinet from a place that smells of patchouli. He shops exclusively at a hardware store. A beard is a man-card made from hair and worn on the face that says, “No, I’m not too lazy to shave. I’m too manly.” Being manly is good. Being manly intimidates other men. That saying, “Walk quietly and carry a big stick” can be translated to “Walk quietly and grow a big, bushy beard” which sends out the exact same message, especially when your beard enters the room before you do. A beard is like having a “Danger/Verboten/Risko” sign growing under your nose. Pity the fool who does not respect the beard. During the Middle Ages touching another man’s beard was the leading cause of death after religion. Beards also have the ability to transform not just boys into men, but men into supermen. While studying to become an oral hygienist, Che Guevara had his clean-shaven chin in a book. Then he grew a beard and become an iconic revolutionary, his smouldering looks still emblazoned across T-shirts today. Ben Affleck was on a road to nowhere, with nothing more than Gigli 2 on the horizon. Then he grew a beard and became an Oscar winning director. Would Zach Galifinakis be funny without his beard? Ha! Could Vikings instill fear if they dragged a blade across their face every morning instead of their enemy’s throats? No, they’d just be Scandinavian. Beards are perfect for the frugal man (*Bonus beard tip: after a night of drinking you can ring your beard out come closing time for an extra drink!) Beards go further to save you money on razors, shaving cream, moisturiser and all that other gumpf cluttering metrosexual vanity cabinets. Laugh at the man with the face of a baby’s bottom. Facial hair is a gift that you give to your face. A beard gives a man’s face character. Most of us have done away with hats and don’t wear suits anymore, which means that facial hair might just be the last refuge of conventional masculinity which is lovely in looks if not in attitude. Women like it too. Have you seen their Tinder bios? 'Beards and tattoos' are mentioned as often in their lists of likes as often as the hashtag #takemeback features in their Instagram captions. Because beards are the best kind of throwback, and a coded message sent out to women that say “I’m virile”, “I can chop wood” and “I’ll be spending an extra couple of minutes in bed with you every morning instead of doing lengthy ablutions.” Bearded guys are just that much more resourceful. Watch the beginning of any stranded-on-an-island movie and you’ll see that the fresh-off-the-boat, cleanly shaven, chubby, butterfingers can’t even make a fire without bursting into tears. Then wait a couple of scenes and there’s our guy, looking like Hashim Amla, lean as a long distance runner, tanned and building an espresso machine out of some coconuts. Beards are the business. Shaving is the first step towards emasculation. You start with your face, move down to your chest, do your legs, assault your armpits and then before you know it you’re pruning your man-gina on the reg. Any man can start growing a beard. A true man never finishes one.