Thursday, June 17, 2010

Transgendered beard --- m-f, Chris Crocker

Chris Crocker, of "Leave Britney Alone!" internet infamy, tweeted in February that s/he would grow out her facial hair for a week.  (Crocker said she had been "living as a woman" for a year at the time, so, as a nod to that, and an effort to avoid clumsy language, I will use feminine pronouns).  Since she's prone to exaggeration, the statement that "facial hair controlled my whole world" is not out of character, but she takes pains to define that world as a realm of self-presentation, namely, in terms of fashion decisions, the use of eye liner, and hairstyle.

Crocker said, "I felt like everything kind of followed my beard's lead.  It was like my facial hair was orchestrating my whole life.  Everything sort of revolved around it, like my fashion choices, do I wear eyeliner, how do I do my hair?"

"It really did change my life, for this week," she said.

Crocker said she's "enjoying feeling out this side of myself" and considered keeping the beard, but appeared clean-shaven in a video posted two days later.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Happy birthday, Brad Pitt's beard.

[From Life & Style and Jezebel].

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Coming soon: National Beard and Moustache Championship

If you're planning on being in Bend, Oregon this June 5, please let me know -- it's the site of the National Beard and Moustache Championship, and I will require pictures.  I'm trying to decide if the tax write-off will be worth it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Editorial reveals bearded stereotypes

Oh, young Princetonian, you have mildly amused me and given me fodder for my blog. This picture

ran to accompany "Ways My Beard Makes Me Seem Thoughtful and Worldly," an opinion piece in Tiger Magazine a few weeks back.  Author DJA opens his argument with the statement that, "sometimes I’ll soak my mustache in scotch before going out to a social event," which leads me to believe he does not truly appreciate fine scotch, or the distinction between beard and mustache, but the article, on the whole, articulates all sorts of bearded-man personas.

A bearded man is:
  • intellectual: "It puts me in the company of other famous thinkers with beards, like Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Eleanor Roosevelt, Yosemite Sam, and Denzel Washington some of the time."
  • artsy/pretentious: "People don’t question me when I tell them that Darren Aronofsky’s absolutely made better films than this."; "People don’t question me when I tell them that post-structuralism, as a movement, is nothing new."
  • self-sufficient: "People don't question me when I say that I make my own jerky."
  • connected to nature: "People don't question me when I tell them that the weather is soon to change."  "People don’t question me when I tell them that they wouldn’t last a minute on the slopes of Kilimanjaro."; "People don’t question me when I tell them that I’ve seen good land and I’ve seen bad land and this is a bad piece of land."
  • good at "manly" stuff: "People don’t question me when I tell them that the problem’s in their brake pads."
  • political: "People don’t question me when I tell them that this country needs health care, sure, but not Obamacare."; "When someone asks me if I shampoo my beard, I look them in the eye and tell them, “Not until we bring every last one of our boys home.” Then I put my head down and am silent until they go away."
  • intimidating, and kind of primal: "People don’t question me when I tell them that to know a man you have to know by heart the taste of his blood."
 I, rather, subjectively, omitted a few statements I couldn't categorize -- one with racial tones, another about age (because beards make you look older or younger, depending on your face/age), and a last one about sticking three pens in his beard simultaneously.  Because, really, beardman, I'm the writer here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Trustworthiness of beards -- take 2

This chart on The Trustworthiness of Beards has made its way around the Internet, from its creator Matt McInerney's website to reddit The Laughing Squid to the LA Times. (click on it for a zoomable version)

A general observation -- coverage generally seems to equate with trust, except when said coverage is mangy or patchy.  That is, assuming the werewolf is not well-groomed.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Slate Headline: Beards Are Back

And how.
Read it here.

Chronicle of Higher Education undermines bearded stereotypes

During an interview, an outdoor gear salesman told me that he shaved to appear more "approachable." Playoff beard guy, as well as other beard pundits, have said that people with beards look more intimidating and less trustworthy -- they are people with something to hide.

A recent marketing study, profiled in the Chronicle of Higher Education, disputes this claim. In this study, bearded men endorsing products were considered significantly more trustworthy than their clean-shaven counterparts.

In our interview last week, Peterkin commented that older people find it difficult to trust people with beards, while young people have fewer concerns. I wonder about the age demographics of participants in this study, and whether the results would've been different if the products in question were target-marketed to the denture or download groups.

[Chronicle of Higher Education]

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Grooming song

I kept trying to make the title of this entry an oblique reference to Doc, the only bearded dwarf, but I admit failure.  Just scramble "Whistle While You Work" and "Heigh-ho" with some post-pubescent viscera, and you've got this creepy but catchy YouTube tune:

Peterkin interview: the (post)modern beard

Allan Peterkin, author of One Thousand Beards and the forthcoming The Bearded Gentleman, was kind enough to muddle through an international Q & A with me.  (see below)

Most exciting, I think, was his listing of the beards of the Noughts:

  • the anti-war beard: post 9/11, some men sported stubble in contrast to a crisp, military grooming style; more dramatically, college students grew out Bin Laden style beards in ironic protest
  • the strike beard: like Conan O'Brien's beard from the Writer's Strike of 2007-08.
  • the layoff beard: especially for Wall Streeters, who had to maintain a close shave in order to appear trustworthy to clients
  • the playoff beard: this used to be primarily for hockey, but has now moved on to any anticipated event -- including, in one case, the birth of a man's first child.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

This weekend's YouTube tribute to the beard

Although the man singing women's praise of his beard is clean-shaven...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Peterkin interview, Beardhead product review pending

This morning, I spoke with Allan Peterkin -- if you read my earlier entries, you should know that I've developed a huge author-crush on him (he's a Canadian psychotherapist who wrote about the cultural history of beards...that combines my desire to be my mother with my desire to write something contemporary, yet academic; toss a facial-hair fixation into the mix, and I am helpless), so all objectivity is out the window.  After Spanish class tonight, I should have a break from my rent-paying busy-work to give it the structure it merits.  Expect insightful comments on: 

  • the cultural role of the beard in mainstream American society today;
  • how the beard's cultural position has evolved since 2004;
  • a new spin on the female equivalent of the beard
Also pending: a photo, and tactile review, of my Lumberjack beard hat.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Abrasive instrument, or face loofah?

I just unearthed this article with advice for coping with beard burn.  They advise moisturizing and close-crop shaving for prevention, and antibiotic ointment for after-the-face cases.  Are there documented cases of beard burn, or any substantiation to the allegation that a low-growth beards have the texture and strength of copper wire?  I think not.  In advocacy of beards, and in the spirit of constructing facts, I will now rebrand the beard as a FaceLoofah.  Exfoliate away.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Professional Beards

Based on the categories of caps at, is appears that bearded men are lumberjacks, pirates, vikings, or grandfathers -- the outdoorsman, the rule-breaker, the over-testosteroned, and the wise paternal figure.  There's a bonus pink beard for the "bunny" women.  But, whatever -- the ladies are free to appropriate a lumberjack identity if they so choose, the add-ons (Mario mustache!) delight, and the business's sponsorship of outdoor athletes is on-message.  Here's to the beard's winter-warmer properties!

This makes me want an iPhone

I have been doing a great deal of living out minor dreams recently--editing a book, working for my boss crush, eating a dinner prepared by my significant other while I worked. The ability to try on any facial-hair-style? That would put me over the top.


Director Catherine Breillat has made the French folktale of Bluebeard into a film. It's a cautionary tale about marriage to a man with a bad romantic history (in this case, the skeletons in his closets are actually the corpses of his ex-wives mounted on hooks).

I've read a good deal about the more obvious symbolism in the novel--the bloody key that reveals the newest wife's trip to the chamber as a symbol of lost virginity, for example--but I am more interested in takes on the beard itself. A cursory review of the literature holds that it is his "ugly" and "fear-inspiring" beard (rather than the bodycount) that accounted for the sisters' resistance to wed him, despite the fact that he was a wealthy man.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Epic Beard Man "is epitome of manliness"?

This is some beard-based culture courtesy of some California connections.

The latest YouTube sensation goes by many names -- Thomas Bruso, Tom Slick, Epic Beard Man, Motherfucker.  The original video of his "epic AC transit fight" currently has 4,052,036 views, and the spin-offs - AmberLamps, the "scenes you missed," the exit interviews -- multiply the meme.  It's a video of a fight between a 67 year old white man and a 50 year old black man on a transit bus in Oakland.  The dispute began with an argument over shoe-shining and ended in fists of surprising fury.  See original video here, or check out one of the many news stories and analysis of the meme.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sexy beard binge

A guy -- we'll call him a friend of mine, because he's a good kid, even though I'm not sure we were ever in touch enough to have fallen out of touch -- anyway, a friend of mine, and the first bearded dude tactilely present in my life, was of a generous nature.  He and his roommate hosted many hours of my ST:TNG binges in their room, and he shared his contraband bread loaves more often than he impressed me with his command of the Klingon language (bIjatlh 'e' yImev, haters).  Anyway, he also made me a trustee of his beard, and promised that I could pretend it was mine as often as I want.  And, while the possibility of having a beard surrogate was never fully realized (after all, I couldn't stroke it thoughtfully when I was studying, especially when he was three buildings over), I remember thinking, wow, that's a friend.

Well, sir, you have now been eclipsed.  I have accumulated friends who can feed me beard-related information.
Biggest props go to Kaelin, who published this article about Sean M. Johnson's Beardlove series (there are two).  He's addresses the bear subculture's valorization of "natural" masculinity much more articulately than I have.  Check out this synopsis: "Bears seek to resist and side-step homonormative beauty standards—characterized by smooth, gym-toned bodies—as well as heteronormative assumptions about gay men’s masculinity (or supposed lack thereof)."   Anyway, a great piece about the "productive friction" of  "subversive and troublingly essentialist ways of “feeling” masculine," and my first peek at fellow beard-fetishist/ gender ponderer Sean Johnson.  Kaelin also recommends

Then, Jess.  She's a scientist, so she cut right to the point: a study says that facial hair and geekiness are the two biggest turn-ons for women.

Robert found some evidence that complicated this information.  (Well, his is a from a book published in 1986, citing studies from 1973, so, actually, the two probably don't even overlap.  But go with me here).  This academic examination of "the importance of looks in everyday life" found that, while only 18% of women found beards sexually attractive, they would describe bearded men as "more masculine, mature, good-looking, dominant, self-confident, courageous, likeable, nonconforming, indus­trious, and older than clean-shaven men."  Actually, it contains an entire subsection on beards, so I'm going to tackle that one another night.

To you, friends.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

correction: Boston Phoenix covered beardfest

It just happened a week after the fact.  My lackluster post-event posting exceeds even that gap, so I guess we're okay.  Article and slideshow here.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Solid advice

Pete from Natick wrote to Boston Globe style columnist Christopher Muther, expressing fears that, if he let his scruff approach critical beard mass, he would be considered a hipster wannabe.  Muther quite correctly reminded him that a beard should be an independent venture, a growth of self-expression, and something that should be pursued with pride.  Huzzah.  I would add that a half-assed beard, the sophomore scraggle, should always be a faux paus.  Own it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Women with Beards" art exhibit

An installation entitled "women with beards" by artist Barbara Seigel is on display in a New York community college -- it features images of twelve real-life bearded women, and two contemporary performers.  Previously, it was part of the "Locks in Translation" exhibition at A.I.R. Gallery in Brooklyn.  If only I'd started this blog last year -- it was on display in Boston last March.  A recent interview in University of Chicago Magazine covers some of the bases -- Seigel's sense of connection to bearded women, the challenges of sideshow performances -- but, as it seems the exhibit's been around since 2006, I'm betting she has a slew of cogitations just waiting to be released.  Now, onto cyberstalking her for an interview!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Still not famous...local coverage of Saturday's Beard Contest

The Somerville Journal just published their coverage of last Saturday's event, including my shameless plug.  The The Boston Herald hasn't updated since Sunday's short blurb and single photo.  As for The Boston Phoenix -- nothing yet.

February beard update

February 3: This editorial in The Cornell Daily Sun covers the author's associations with beards, and his concern over their repression in American society.

February 4: Build-a-Beard, an NYC beard blog, hosted a Beard Ball in Brooklyn.  

February 7:  As a follow up to the Superbowl's anti-emasculation campaign, the Dodge Charger is sponsoring a Super Beard Contest.  They balance the urgency of the message: "Proclaim your manliness to the world by growing a beard...!" one paragraph later, with quick reassurance.  "Can't grow a beard?  Don't worry -- we have – we have Dodge Prize Packs full of great apparel and collectibles for voters who enter the sweepstakes!"  Message:  You're not a man, but if you buy our clothes, no problem.  Eh?

February 13:  All America City Beard and Mustache Contest, in Somerville.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

All America Beard Contest Results

The house was packed.  The chins were covered.  The beer was free.
Alas, kitsch was celebrated above craftsmanship, and, despite the valiant efforts of my beard-building friends (see below), my Frank-Zappa-meets-Allman-Brothers-during-Rumspringa get-up did not even place.  The fiercest competitor in the fake beard category used clippings from her own head (game set match) and looked great, but the judges rewarded conceptual-art-girl, who made a fringed shawl of brown polar fleece, and Santa-Beard-with-lights-lady, who, while very pleasant, did not even both to hide her elastic.  Alas.

 Notable winners included a member of the Sikh community in the natural beard category, a Scotsman with devilish curls in the mustache category, and a middle schooler in the partial facial hair category.  I found a few pictures here and here, and expect more to appear in the Boston publications over the next few days.

I have pre-interviews with a winner and the handlebar stripper (you'll see), which I'll dole out over the week.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Happy v-day

Photo and object from wifeofbrian on Etsy.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Bearded Gentleman Book Release, May 2010

I've referenced Peterkin's One Thousand Beards several times-- turns out he's co-authoring a new book about beards.  On the downside, the subtitle (The Style Guide To Shaving Face) and a co-author with a specialty in men's grooming, I suspect that it will be written from a high-maintenance, low-follicle-density, pro-shaving perspective.  On the upside, the book's blurb promises "practical advice on choosing a facial hair style that's right for you, as well as insight into how facial hair has figured in the history of masculinity, including its impact on politics, class, and sexuality." 

Sweet lord!  If there's a chapter on identity politics and gender expression, or a more focused follow-up of the "Post-Modern Beard," I anticipate delight.

For the active pogonologist, there's still plenty of back-reading on the subject to get through before May (see below). 

I will shave. I will clean the sink after I shave.

As Jezebel writer Hortense just noted in her post, many Superbowl ads pushed products as means of combating emasculation.  In the following clip, a male voice over lists the minor infractions to "manliness" that he endures on a daily basis -- the Dodge Charger advertised at the end is his compensation, and "man's last stand."

My interest in this clip piqued at second 8: "I will shave.  I will clean the sink after I shave," simply because this is the first bit of pop culture I've come across that explicitly references female control over male facial hair.  Anecdotally, it's all over the place -- one man told me that he currently sports a beard because hsi wife told him that he looked like Homer Simpson the last time he shaved.  Clean-shaven men report that their girlfriends complain when their faces are rough (give it time, ladies). 

Freud postulated that shaving is a symbolic act of self-emasculation -- the tone of this ad suggests that women, and not society at large, are the ones forcing men's hands.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Beard commerce

This is inspiration for the false beard contest.  If winter were just ten degrees harsher, or one month longer, or this came in my hair color, I would be all over this.
Available here.  Knit beards are available in blonde and "creamy white," but I have something a bit more natural-looking in mind.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Is this true?

Image/info care of cargocollective

FAQ--female equivalent of beards?

There are a few eternal questions of beard-dom (or of my pursuit of said beard-dom). I have begun to answer a few to my satisfaction.

When is it a beard, as opposed to mere scruff?
A: This is subjective, and varies on the individual. General consensus says that once there is a complete line of hair connecting one temple to the other, and that hair is curly, it is a beard.

But this one persists:

What is the female equivalent of the beard?
Problematic A #1: long hair.
Same: '70s nostalgia, potential for lasseiz faire grooming, externally displayed gender.
Problems: facial hair is postpubescent, long hair is associated with little girls; head hair indicates a more extensive time committment.
Resolution?: associate earlier age association with female's earlier potential for fertility, link time commitment term pregnancy vs. insemination

Proposed A #2: The bush.
Same: postpubescent; though growth is natural, regular grooming/ hair removal is considered common; "dirty hippies"; texture.
Problems: Not publicly displayed; pubic hair present in both genders; hairiness is not associated with "femininity"
Resolution?: facial hair is potentially present in both genders; both bushy women and bearded men are minorities, but not radical minorities.

Anyway, further research is required.

Beard Contest, Assumed Victory

The Somerville Arts Council is hosting a beard contest at Union Square on February 13. Registration deadline is February 5.

After speaking with event coordinator Todd Easton, and determining that judges had already been selected, I opted to enter the "false beard" category. I have found a team of RISD graduates capable of many feats of hair design. Victory pending.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ballad of the Beard

I recommend this video for the opening two minutes -- his look of sincere regret, overemphatic thoughtful rubbing, and rumbling, off-key mantra is worth that much.

Speaking of sweet

This beard is an oldie but a goodie. Sorry to use you as eye candy, Dan, but you are an influence.

Photo courtesy of Ben Taylor


I missed the Octobeard boat. And then, halfway through November, someone told me about Novembeard. I must assume that there is also a Decembeard. And now, The Boston Globe ran this article on Manuary.

I will set about learning the other verbal tricks that grant men permission to embrace the beard Furbruary? MarchStache? -- but that's beside the point. Manuary is upon us, and a Boston publication took note. Huzzah. I will scrape my own blog entry out of the discarded trimmings of this timely clip; that is, I will now proceed to troll through readers' comments.

The most interesting point they raise is the notion that the beard is a traditionally masculine symbol in an effeminizing culture. I have always considered this in terms of the workplace-- men who work in sales tell me that customers find them "intimidating" and "less approachable" if they have a beard. Likewise, many company dress codes require men to save. It is the fourth piece of the three-piece suit.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

slow growth

I tell myself that things can grow incrementally, that this site doesn't have to be groomed regularly, that interviewing strange men about their beards, ostensibly for this site, is not rendered creepy and irrelevant by a lack of digital posting, grooming, or curating on my part.

It is a lie. If hairs had started poking their coarse, protein-rich heads out of my face when I started this blog, my present beard would be thoroughly untenable and potentially hideous. And bearing such scraggle self-consciously should make me even less attractive. And yet

it has some obnoxious charm.

(creative commons photo by j a r r o d)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

them's the Pitts

Brad Pitt's beard, referred to as "facial furniture" by a gossip rag, he really raised some plucked eyebrows when he braided it.

Let me be honest. I should care, but don't. An examination of the Pitt-hair rhetoric might reveal pop culture attitudes toward facial hair, but I have so little respect, and so little context, for those publications, that I am going to ignore celebrity facial hair (Clooney included) at the present moment.

That said, search for an unlicensed pic of Brad's beard led me to the first of many mortal enemies-- she is a barber/anti-beard blogger Diane Woods. Why?

Because, as action-based, team-work promoting cartoons taught me, darkness cannot exist without light, the X-men cannot exist without Apocalypse's colossal counterweight, and beards are strengthened by those who would cut them down.