Thoughts on Facial Hair

Last week, Allyson, Amanda, Christy Jo, and I gathered for one of the biggest events in my short time in Murray. It was time to shave my beard. I’ve been growing this beard without trimming since sometime in October. Many have asked me if this came about as a result of No-Shave-November or Duck Dynasty. It was really more a combination of early-on laziness, then the challenge of seeing just how long I could stand it before it got on my nerves too much or Allyson divorced me. It was longer than any beard I’ve grown previous and impressed every friend I came into contact with who had not seen me in a while. But, alas, it was time for me to get a new driver’s license, and I did not want the face in my picture, for the next five years to look like a hillbilly or terrorist.

A beard this length offers a man a lot of possibilities, and as I thought more and more about shaving it, I thought more and more about all the things I could shave it into on that fateful day that the beard would fall to the bathroom floor. I began thinking back through history at all the possible styles I could try out now, and, I have to say, it was very exciting. If only I had costumes to go with them. I may need to start growing a beard this summer just to prepare for Halloween. We’ll see. But, back to last week’s beard shaving party. I charted out several beard styles that I wanted to try, and came up with a progression so we could move through the selected styles. Some didn’t turn out very cool or interesting, so I’m showing you the high points. Here we go:

This is how the facial hair party began. A pretty thick, Sam Beam, style beard.
This is how the facial hair party began. A pretty thick, Sam Beam, style beard.
I trimmed this design in just a couple of minutes on both sides with my electric clippers and my Shick Quattro. If I had the right costume, I could play Jafar or something.
I trimmed this design in just a couple of minutes on both sides with my electric clippers and my Shick Quattro. If I had the right costume, I could play Jafar or something.
This one would have been so much better if I had had a big hat with a feather in it.
This one would have been so much better if I had had a big hat with a feather in it.
I'm going to have to write you guys up for a noise violation. Paunch, radio headquarters.
I’m going to have to write you guys up for a noise violation. Paunch, radio headquarters.
I could go at least 50 rounds with Gentleman Jim Corbett.
I could go at least 50 rounds with Gentleman Jim Corbett.

And now, I’m back to the good old baby face (actually the 5 o’clock shadow). There was much bally-hooing and guffawing as I modeled these beard styles for the ladies, to the point that it was really hard to keep the straight faces you see in many of these pictures. Facial hair is a funny thing, especially when it’s a style that’s not from your decade. It seems to me that there have been in history far more men’s facial hair styles than there have been men’s regular hair styles. It’s interesting to think how, over history, what is and isn’t excepted has changed so much, and I just have to wonder, what it is that makes men decide on a certain facial hair over another. It’s certainly not practicality. Otherwise, we’d just adjust thickness to the temperature. But, when style comes into play, it just gets even stranger to wonder what they were thinking.

The 1800s seems to me to be the century of crazy facial hair styles. I mean, look at the Presidents from about 1820 to about 1890. There’s some stuff there that would be enough to lose you the Presidency just on the chins of some of these guys. Do you think Barack Obama would be serving a second term if he was sporting the Chester A. Arthur muttonchops? Or would Romney have even managed to win Texas if he had the Rutherford B. Hayes mountain man beard? But, huge sideburns and waxed mustaches were just normal then. So, what makes then crazy now? Why did pointed goatees come into vogue in the 1600s in France? Why do only Middle Eastern Sultans and tricked out hip-hop artists have crazy designs shaved into their beards? Why are Major League Baseball Relievers the only ones who can do whatever they want with their facial hair?

These are deep, probing questions that we may never have answers for. It is fun, though, after seeing all I can do with a 3 month old beard to know how many different ways I could ornament my face. I already have a few ideas for the next beard-shaving party. But, in the end, I’m happiest with the current 5 o’clock shadow. A simple bare face, cleaned up, but not too clean. As I stroke my chin (which I do very often), I’m feeling a sand-papery texture, where last week, I would have pulled down on about an inch of red and brown bristley scruffage. In one night you can change yourself–sometimes a few times over.

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