January 31, 2013
The Taming of the Beard

I let no Thursday go by without checking the Fashion & Style section of the New York Times, and nor should any other real man. Today we fashionistos learned:

As a Los Angeles-based brand manager for high-profile musicians, Nicholas Adler likes staying abreast of men’s fashion, sporting Rag & Bone jeans with slim-fit shirts and Ben Sherman sweaters. As a final touch he’s grown a beard, which once resembled the one worn by Mandy Patinkin’s character on the television show “Homeland,” but now is a more closely cropped length. “It’s a style thing,” said Mr. Adler, 36, who divulged that he spends up to 45 minutes, one to two times a week, grooming his beard.

This is from 17 t0 62 more minutes per week than I spend shaving, which I have been doing pretty much on a daily basis for 63 years now. Consequently my fashion statement, compared with Mr. Adler’s, has saved me roughly 400 eight-hour days — enough time to have composed 1.7 symphonies, or written a highly-regarded history of Bacon’s Rebellion, or hiked the Appalachian Trail twice. Not that I did any of these things, but still…

Not that I have anything against beards, either. In 1954 my college roommate and I grow semi-luxuriant beards, mine black and his red. At the time the only other American to wear one was Ernest Hemingway, who was to kill himself seven years later in a possibly unrelated incident.

Beards were so unusual that strangers would come up and ask about them, always the same questions. How long did it take to grow? Doesn’t it itch? What are you trying to prove?

What we proved to our own satisfaction was that beards were more trouble than they were worth, which was only the modest pleasure of giving the ’50s the finger. Now that face muffs are on the fashion page of the Good Gray Lady, even that is gone.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at January 31, 2013 02:11 PM
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Writing as one who sported a beard of varying lengths for the last 30 years, I finally tired of the dang thing last year and shaved it off. Except when a cold wind blows, I don't miss it at all. And now that the Times has declared beards to be fashionable, I'm liking the clean-shaven look even more!

Posted by: Derelict on January 31, 2013 3:13 PM

I, too, had beards in the 50's and endured, along with my best bud, constant questioning about what I was trying to prove amid disapproving looks from the (sniff! sniff!) bourgeoisie. But when we visited the cantinas in Nogales, the young ladies there would enjoy stroking them and calling us Fidel or Castro Ruz. Occasionally. back in El Norte, I would also be able to strike up a conversation with a young beauty of an adventurous nature. This helped compensate for the dissenters and the annoyingly curious.

Between bouts of employment in New Jork City in 55 or so, I would grow various beards and had a mentor, who recently passed away at aged 91, a died-in-the-wool Communist and a survivor of a Nazi prison camp after having been captured along with his unit in the Battle of the Bulge, who encouraged my hirsute accomplishments. I think he saw it as an act of decent, well served, rebellion. My beard, as his, was a thumb stuck in the eye of the capitalist oppressors.

And now I have been wearing one for a few months and still am surprised by who I see each morning in the mirror and expect to keep it until I find it boring rather than surprising. I spend an average of 20 seconds every couple or three days maintaining it. But no one, as in not one single person, questions me about it though I do encounter an appreciative young lady every now and again. Only now the cute young chickie babes are 65 or older! Life is an adventure all right!

Posted by: Albaz on February 2, 2013 1:39 PM
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