Monday, February 01, 2010

The Man With the Weird Beard

That’s a song title, by the way.

For some reason, I’ve been thinking about beards lately. We expect female hairstyles to be of the moment, but male facial hair is surprisingly defined by passing fashions as well. Many men today affect a look that in other times has been labeled scruffy. Okay, truth? It is scruffy. But since hot guys in the media affect this currently fashionable look, nobody wants to say how weird it looks. Instead we tend to call out other beard styles as strange.

Think of the classic 1970s mustache as seen on Tom Selleck in Magnum P.I. Although disco is now retro, the 'stache still hasn’t been revived. It's still an object of scorn. Actor Tom Selleck shaved his for a while, but now, as Jesse Stone, he’s got it back, plus a weird beard.

Well, that doesn't seem so remarkable, you say. He's an old guy; weird facial hair comes with the territory. But what about Henry Cavill playing that rogue of the Tudor court, Charles Brandon? He sports a very modern several-days-old beard, neatly trimmed in anticipation of growing longer.But it never does. Look at this pic in close-up and you'll see that it's an almost-beard. How does a guy keep a five-day-old beard look, anyway?

By contrast, look at the real Brandon’s portrait. He’d grown up in a clean-shaven, long-haired age, but when his pal the king decided to grow a beard, and fashion changed, Brandon grew a serious beard. Not my romantic ideal, but it could be yours.

Not feeling the love? Perhaps ZZ Top, who have better beards than Bin Laden, are more your style. But I can't quite picture this kind of beard in a romantic bedroom romp, can you? I'm hearing "Ouch, ouch!"

I know, I'm getting silly. But it occurs to me that men play with their beards the way we women often play with our hairstyles. Beard and mustache. Beard with no mustache. Mutton chops. Handlebar mustache. Van Dyke. Pencil mustache. Hitler mustache. Here, Justin Timberlake affects the not-quite-there beard. Which I have also seen on middle-aged or jowly men who are trying to disguise a little too much flesh under their jawline.

The good thing about all this facial hair is that it tends to be distinctive. Baldness, the current rage for guys who don't want to look at their receding hairlines, is the same on every man. Beards often are a different hair color as what's on top, or a different texture, or whatever. The bad thing is that kissing or even snuggling up to a man who is growing a beard is a prickly experience. More "Ouch, ouch!"
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