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To beard or Not to Beard?

That is the question. Columnist explores the implications of the beard.


Published: Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Updated: Sunday, December 8, 2013 15:12

There are many scholars who debate who the best and worst presidents were in American history. Maybe their foreign policy decisions were disasters, or perhaps it was an economic misstep at home. As a self-labeled promising thinker, partnered with an old friend with a degree in history, we analyzed our presidents with a new variable: facial hair.

Kidding aside, we did seriously look it up. You see, we had both decided to grow out our beards, and were facing some friction on multiple fronts for doing so. Our conclusion was to blame that whiskerless Woodrow Wilson, who clearly marked the end of bewhiskered presidents (there were exceptions) into our modern time.

Beards certainly seem to be making a comeback, and I remember the existence of “No-shave November” well back into grade school years. However, as with presidents, there seems to be some general prejudices against men with facial hair.

Consider, for example, employment. In high school, and during my early college, every job required me to be clean-shaven, usually under a section titled “Professionalism.” Now, employers manage a number of aspects of our appearance, but most of them can be easily justified. I do have a tattoo, and while I don’t think it would horrify anybody (it’s a chess piece), it was a choice for me to get it, so to cover it is not a big deal. However, my beard was not tattooed on. Every day it grows in slowly, so as long as it is well kept, why should a natural part of being male impact my job performance?
Troublemaker that I was, I’d often try to push it during “No-shave November,” asking my manager if I was actually any worse at my job because of the stubble growing in. In true managerial fashion, I was told that it was part of the rules, and the rules are followed. The irony of it all was that he sported a goatee, which was allowed for him.

It’s not just employment though. When you consider the Wilson’s presidency was nearly 100 years ago, that means the social attitudes of the voters clearly changed in favor of the clean-shaven man. My grandparents always asked the hard hitting questions like “What girl will want to date you with that hair?” or “Did you forget to mow your face?” They haven’t been alone. Many good-natured elderly folk in my neighborhood seems genuinely shocked to find out that I have a job looking like this.

To go to work in tattered clothing reeking worse than a sewer would affect your job because the people around you are affected.

However, a beard has not inhibited my work ethic, or my studies, or my relationships with other people. Plus, each day I sit down to my studies, I realize just how many of the thinkers and historical figures I’m studying sported facial hair. Someone even said it made me look like a philosopher (which I considered a great compliment) and a great lesson on the difference between how things seem, and what they actually are.

So, my fellow gentleman: if you are bearded, I encourage you to pensively and carefully stroke your beard as you read this, and give it great thought that the outside world can see.

For those of you clean-shaven from fear, remember that some of the greatest men on this planet wore facial hair, and come on, can you really deny that kind of correlation?

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