Everyone has a beard these days.
OK, that’s a bit of an overstatement. Most women I know don’t have beards, but bearded ladies are another topic for another day.
I know, I know, facial hair has been popular for a while now, and beards have had many meanings throughout history. Sometimes countercultural, facial hair has meant everything from virility and masculinity to wisdom and intelligence to laziness and uncleanliness.
Much has been written about that face carpet San Francisco Giants’ closer Brian Wilson wears, and its kitsch is being mimicked throughout the sports world.
Whether you’re a middle-aged suburban dad with a hip quotient of -4 or a 20-something ne’er do well playing guitar in your parents’ basement, the goatee is the go-to choice these days for facial hair.
So what does this mean?
Absolutely nothing. The beard has become so ubiquitous no meaning can be attached to it.
I have to confess I tried wearing a goatee for about six months back in the early ‘90s. I was single without attachment, so I had no one expressing preferences about my grooming. At the time I was affecting this Gen X writer mystique, and I thought some facial hair would somehow add to this. I even had my newspaper column mug shot redone to include the beard. I’m hoping those photos have been destroyed.
I eventually pulled the plug on the whole goatee project after a few months because it was too much effort, and at 24 I decided I wasn’t a goatee guy.
Apparently, men don’t have that hang up anymore.
Last week during my beach vacation I went a few days without shaving. I wasn’t aiming for a look. I was just not shaving. So of course my wife had to capture the image and comment, “Wow, your beard is gray. People who think you look younger than 40 have never seen you with facial hair.”
Ah, now we get to it.
Vanity. I don’t wear facial hair because it makes me look older and unkempt. Others wear facial hair because it accentuates their face or their wives/girlfriends like the look or they feel it gives them an edge visually to distinguish them from the rest of masculinity. There are as many reasons for having a beard as there are types of beards.
Beards no longer make a statement, but I am certain that it won’t be long before beards are used to convey marketing messages. Who wouldn’t look good with a Nike swoosh shaved into their beard? When this happens, remember you heard it here first.