The Wonders of Being Bearded

May 9, 2015 | Autobiographical, Internet Culture, Satirical Essays

Published: Good Men Project (May 9, 2015)

Matthew Rozsa offers a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the wonders of having a beard.

Bearded men of the world, rejoice: Our name has been cleared!

Many of us were understandably concerned earlier this week when a nasty little hoax made its rounds online impugning our good name. “Some beards are so full of poo they are as dirty as toilets” the headlines claimed… Balderdash! Our whiskers are fine, disproved rumors to the contrary notwithstanding.

Studies currently show that women prefer men with moderate beards, although they also found that these preferences fluctuate rather rapidly over time. Apparently your facial hair sends off a host of unspoken messages about you: When you have it, you’re more likely to be perceived as aggressive, dominant, and mature; when you don’t, you’re thought of as sociable, healthy, and clean. However, as with the sexuality associated with beards, society’s overall interpretation of what it means for a man to have fail hair has likewise changed significantly throughout history.

Bearded men of the world, rejoice: Our name has been cleared!

My own history with being bearded is somewhat less interesting. Before I left for college, I always remained completely clean-shaven; my father, who like me grows a heavy beard, made a point of shaving every day, and I without thinking followed suit. Then during one morning ritual, as I ran the triple-bladed razor over my stubble, I accidentally found that I had created a goatee pattern on my face. It seemed to compliment my prominent chin quite well, and when I threw on a pair of thick glasses, gave me a professorial look that I rather liked. I could finish shaving and know I’ll go through my day with a look that has always worked for me so far, I thought, or I could experiment with something new… and catch a few extra minutes of sleep.

The decision practically made itself.

Of course, the choice to grow a beard can be a positively momentous one. Take this excerpt from a letter written to Abraham Lincoln by an eleven-year-old girl named Grace Bedell shortly before Election Day 1860:

… if you will let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you   you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husband’s to vote for you and then you would be President.

You can find the full (and ridiculously adorable) story of what Lincoln did with Bedell’s advice right here. If nothing else, Lincoln’s example certainly rubbed off on the American people, who with one exception only voted for presidents who had facial hair in every post-Lincoln election for the next fifty years (the clean-shaven William McKinley must have thought he was so special).

I suppose there isn’t much else to say on the subject, aside from light-hearted observations such as the ones above. After all, we’re fortunate enough to live at a time when a man’s worth isn’t tied up in his appearance to any meaningful degree. There are days when I feel lucky to know that I have a wide range of facial hair options, and there are times when I wish I didn’t have to blow so much money on razors and shaving cream. Beyond that, I find that the question of whether a man has a beard or not is simply an enjoyable diversion, a quirk determined partially by our genetic makeup and partially by our own stylistic inclinations.

Two things have been clearly established, though: Our beards are clean… and vindication is sweet.