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.