First requirement for manhood? Beard. Growing instructions. Step one: stop shaving. Step two: enjoy. I’ve been wearing my beard at a length somewhere between Homeless and Terrorist for a few months now. I don’t have any chest hair, nor can I service my own car, but none of that matters when you have a man-bib as illustrious as mine. Was.
Yes, this story has an unhappy ending, which we’ll get to, but let us first focus on the good times shared. Which were plentiful. Cue Tina Turner’s “Simply The Best” and a video montage of me and my beard gallivanting in a series of date-like scenarios: running along the beach, getting love tattoos, buying hot dogs in the park… before a split-screen edit that cuts to slow-motion footage of us doing one-armed push-ups, upper-cutting a beef shank and then running up some steps before raising our arms in victory.
I’ll give you a minute to wipe that tear from your eye…
Okay, so the pros of wearing a face full of fuzz are large. First up there’s the fact that I’m bald as an arch-villain, so having some hair to style is nice. And when your beard grows to be as impressive as mine (again, was), you don’t stock your dop-kit at a place that smells of patchouli and is, (ha!), manned by a clean-shaven girly-boy with flapping wrists. No sir. You buy your grooming products from a hardware store.
Secondly, there’s no special month slash half-hearted health initiative for beards. A beard is a man-card made from hair and worn on your face that says, “No, I’m not too lazy to shave. I’m too manly.” There’s no gimmick. You don’t shave it off come December. A beard takes commitment.
Most of all, being a manly man intimidates other men. That saying, “Walk quietly and carry a big stick” can be translated to “Walk quietly and grow a big, bushy beard” which sends out exactly the same message, especially when your beard enters the room before you do. Would you mess with a guy who wears a black belt to hold his karate gi closed? A beard is like having a “Danger/Gevaar/Ingozi” sign growing under your nose.
Respect the beard. During the middle ages touching another man’s beard was seen as an act of violence and grounds for a duel, and the leading cause of death after religion. Beards also have the ability to transform not just boys into men, but men into supermen. While studying to become an oral hygienist, Che Guevara had his clean-shaven chin in a book. Then he grew a beard and became an iconic revolutionary so dashingly handsome that his photograph is still being used to sell mass-produced T-shirts to pimply mall rats looking to channel his machismo. Ben Affleck was on a road to nowhere, with nothing more than Gigli 2 on the horizon. Then he grew a beard and became an Oscar-winning director. Would Zach Galifianakis be funny without his beard? Ha! Would Vikings instill fear if they dragged a blade across their faces every morning instead of their enemy’s throats? No, they’d just be Scandinavian. Oh, and six of the seven dwarves had beards. The clean shaven one? Dopey.
Marketers have cottoned on to the epic power of the beard. Sullying something pure with profit is shameful. But it works. Take Beard Head for example. The traditional woollen hat is now able to keep your entire face warm by incorporating a knitted beard that covers your jaw. Not only have the ad men taken the lumberjack’s uniform and made it fashionable – selvedge denim, flannel shirt, woollen hat, utility boots – but now they’ve started using the beard as a billboard too.
Enter Beardvertising. A US ad agency has placed the following call to action: “Do you have an epic beard? Do people stare at its awesomeness? Of course they do. Do you wanna get paid for having an epic beard? Of course you do. Join the world’s first Beardvertising network. Get paid.”
Those guys who have turned their beards into a business are getting up to five dollars a day, just for sticking a little postage-stamp sized billboard in their beard. Which is great considering that I’ve walked around with half a Weet-Bix stuck in mine and earned nothing but a few sideways glances.
So there you have it. Beards are perfect for the frugal man (Bonus beard tip: after a night of drinking you can wring your beard out come closing time for an extra drink!) Not only do you save on razors, shaving cream, moisturiser and all that other gumpf cluttering metrosexual vanity cabinets but, as you’ve just read, they’re very marketable and can even make you money as well.
Laugh at the man with the face of a baby’s bottom. Facial hair is a gift that you give to your face. A beard gives a man’s face character. We’ve done away with hats and most of us don’t wear suits anymore. Hell, most of you will probably only own a single pair of proper shoes, getting around in sneakers and slops most of the time. Facial hair is the last refuge of masculinity.
And the ladies like it too. A beard is a coded message sent out to women that says: “I’m virile”, “I can chop wood” and “I’ll be spending an extra couple of minutes in bed with you every morning instead of doing lengthy ablutions.” Shaving is like Sisyphus and his rock. Growing a beard is knowledge of self.
What else? Guys with beards are resourceful. Watch the beginning of any stranded-on-an-island movie and you’ll see that the fresh-off-the-boat, cleanly shaven, chubby, butterfingers guy can’t even make a fire without bursting into tears. Then just wait a couple of scenes and there’s our guy looking like Hashim Amla, lean as a long distance runner, tanned and building a foosball table out of some coconuts.
Beards are the business. Tom Ford showed us how to wear one with a suit and Matthew McConaughey showed us how to wear one without a shirt. Hemingway would stroke his beard with his free hand while writing in longhand or fighting bulls. Need more convincing? Moses didn’t need to know the difference between one razor and another, Kingsley Holgate doesn’t bother with a badger brush and Chuck Norris has never exited a bathroom with bits of bloodied toilet paper on his face.
To shave is human. To let yourself grow?
Shaving is the first step towards emasculation. You start with your face, move down to your chest, do your legs, assault your armpits and then before you know it you’re pruning your mangina on the reg.
But, like I said when I started this rant, my lady didn’t like the way that mine was taking over my face and bringing all the girls to our yard. Eventually she’d gone from whining to withholding sex. I’ve never once questioned taking away her sandwich-making abilities, but then perhaps that’s just because I’m a better person.
Anyway, without sex my beard started to look limp. Sex is crucial to beard growth as more sex equals more testosterone, which equals more beard. Therefore lots of sex is directly proportionate to an awesome beard.
Sadly not for me. I could no longer beard the bully, so I got out the ol’ Remington and attached the number 4 attachment and groomed myself into something more presentable and less awesome.
My colleague Ian, who started growing his beard around the same time that I did mine, still hasn’t shaved. And I often find myself cowering in the unbridled masculinity that emits from that glowing mane. It’s an amazing sight.
Sure, he doesn’t have a girlfriend and mothers clutch their small children to their sides when he’s around. But that’s just a small price to pay for overdosing on awesome.
Any man can start growing a beard. A true man never finishes.