I’ve never studied the history of human hair but I am sure that there is one and that it is fascinating. I suppose that there was a time when people had no real alternative but to let Mother Nature take her course with the growth of that fuzzy stuff that ends up on everyone’s head and on the faces of men. I imagine that at some point the darn stuff grew so long that it became unmanageable. I laugh at the thought of some guy tripping over his beard. I imagine that hair became the victim of the first cutting tools invented by creative souls.
We watch movies of historical times and often forget that the means of grooming were often quite limited for most folks, including royalty, for a very long time. Powdered wigs became the rage among those wealthy enough to afford them because the pate underneath them was probably a rather nasty mess. At some point in time men used blades of some sort to achieve a clean shaven look, perhaps to rid themselves of one more spot on the body that might house uninvited guests like insects. The measures of hygiene that we enjoy today were not always available to the average person even as late as the early twentieth century.
My grandfather often spoke of his boyhood and the lack of basics like running water and gentle soaps that we take for granted. He laughed about the once a week baths that his grandmother gave him with a scrub down of lye soap that burned his skin. He claimed that nobody really noticed the general lack of cleanliness because it was a given for everyone in his little circle of country folk but he admitted that they must have been a rather foul smelling group.
Today our bodies are pampered with daily showers, baths, soaps, creams. We seek out professionals to style our hair and, for men, to shape our mustaches and beards. People can cut their locks and shave their faces or let them grow long and lush. Styles come and go but in the present time our tastes appear to be open to just about any way of dealing with that stuff that grows from our scalps and chins. In particular there is a kind of resurgence of beards of all kinds among the males.
I think that a nicely shaped and controlled beard can be quite attractive. It works particularly well on men who have chins that are not particularly commanding. I personally prefer closely cropped versions of beards and goatees rather than big busy styles and I definitely dislike the long straggly versions that look at though no effort has been made to give the hair some character. Sean Connery wore beards rather well but some men can’t seem to get enough thickness to their facial hair to make it attractive.
On the whole I prefer the clean shaven look on most men but I am not against facial hair when all of the factors come together to create a good look. I’ve learned that the art of the beard is time consuming and expensive, requiring just the right implements for training the hair and keeping it looking healthy with cleansing agents and pomades. The best beards require a great deal of work.
I’ve visited men’s shaving shops with my husband and we browse the many products for beards even though he does not have one. He has stuck with the clean look for most of his life because his attempts to grow a beard or mustache have failed miserably. The beard is not problem for him but his mustache tends to be thin and of a different color than the hairs on his chin and head. He ends up looking unkempt and not nearly as attractive as he actually is. I’ve had to give him a thumbs down more than once when he tried to join the bearded set. Still, he is fascinated with the art of shaving and I see him longingly studying the implements and products designed for growing and managing a beautiful beard.
Our friend Bill had a trademark goatee that served him well. He always looked rather dashing with the look that he adopted and kept for most of his adult life. My brother grew a beard during the pandemic that is a very good style for him. He now cuts his thinning pate close to his head and sports a closely cropped beard that draws attention to his twinkling eyes in an effect that serves him well. When done right a beard can be a nice way to enhance a man’s looks but those long straggly out of control bushes are just downright horrible to me. The men from Duck Dynasty might actually be handsome underneath all of the growth but for now they just look ridiculous.
I suppose that I have a bit of a fetish about hair of any kind since I struggle so with mine. I have spent a lifetime attempting to find a style that works for me with very little success. I might look great in the salon after the work of a professional but I can’t reproduce the effect at home. A woman’s hair makes all the difference in how the world perceives her and mine sadly all too often looks boring and sometimes even as awful as a man with an out of control beard. I imagine that facial hair can be just as tricky for the guys as a head of bad hair can be for a woman.
We humans are a funny lot. We’ve created an obsession with our looks that probably did not need to happen. We spend untold amounts of money each year on products and styling in the hopes of stumbling upon the ultimate look that will transform us from ordinary to incredibly attractive. How we ultimately decided what constitutes beauty is a mystery but they say that even tiny babies respond more positively to individuals with certain physical features. So we continue on our quest to be viewed a looking nice with emphasis on the aspect of our bodies that we always see first, our faces. For men that includes the hairs that pop out of their chins with daily regularity. To beard or not to beard is a very personal choice and brings a bit of variety into our lives that can be fun. I’m all for anything that makes someone feel good.