A hairy subject, or Face the face

Regular readers over the past nearly four years of my two blogs may have noticed I have a few quirks. (“Now he tells me,” some readers say.)

One of them is taking place my right now. My handsome photo on this blog, FacebookTwitter and Google+ is for now inaccurate, because my winter beard is taking shape.

Before I go on, the following chart will be helpful for terminology and for evidence that you can do a lot with your facial hair if you can grow it and you have the patience:
This comes up this month because this is the eighth annual Movember, during which clean-shaven men grow mustaches to support prostate cancer research. Male staffers at WAPL in Appleton are participating, with, as you might expect, mixed results.

I am an oddball in my family (“Now he tells me,” my relatives say) because I am the only male currently with facial hair. My father had a beard once, on our Boy Scout trip to New Mexico in 1979. The beard came off a few days after we arrived. I haven’t seen my brother for a while, but given that he works in financial management, I’m guessing he is clean-shaven. My stepgrandfather had a mustache for most of the time I knew him, including when he died in 1984. One of my brothers-in-law also has a beard.

So who else had facial hair? A few of my teachers, including my eighth-grade science teacher, who started growing a beard around this time of year (possibly for deer hunting), and then shaved it off during spring vacation. The father and brothers of one of my ex-girlfriends wore mustaches. The first newspaper publisher to hire me, who had an unpronounceable Dutch name, wore what is sometimes called an Amish beard, a beard without mustache, but is more properly called an “Old Dutch” or a “chin curtain.”

The 1982 Milwaukee Brewers, remembered fondly during this Brewers postseason, had a tremendous collection of facial hair, led by relief pitcher Rollie Fingers’ famed handlebar mustache. (Fingers first grew it because Charles O. Finley, owner of the first team for which Fingers pitched, the Oakland A’s, gave every player who grew facial hair $300.) Most Valuable Player Robin Yount and other players wore Fu Manchus. First baseman Cecil Cooper had a beard. Gorman Thomas had a mustache and appeared to rarely shave beyond that.

Fingers’ spirit can be seen in current relief pitcher John Axford, the (I kid you not) American Mustache Institute‘s 2011 Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American of the Year:

The entire team’s spirit can be seen on the other end of U.S.  41, where Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been known to grow his own:

One of the great traditions of sports is the hockey playoff beard, which has not only filtered down from the National Hockey League to college and other lower levels, but has gravitated into other sports, including football and baseball. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has grown a beard during the NFL playoffs.

Terminology is important. Most men who have what are called goatees don’t really have goatees (row 3, second from left); they have Van Dykes (row 2, second from left), supposedly named for Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck. Between sometime around Thanksgiving (or when I feel like it) and approximately Easter, I will have a short boxed beard, with the Van Dyke probably to return thereafter.

I have had some kind of facial hair since our return from our honeymoon in November 1992, when I looked like this:

I grew a beard, then shaved it off to a Van Dyke for one week in the spring, then shaved off the goatee part, leaving me with just a mustache. Then in the fall I grew back the goatee, then grew the rest of the beard. And I repeated that process for several years. The past few years, I’ve alternated between Van Dyke and short boxed beard.

Try as I might, this is the only images I can find of myself with a beard that isn’t one-half inch in size (the photo, not the beard):

The first rule of facial hair is: If you can’t grow it, don’t. The mustacheless beards, such as my first publisher’s Old Dutch or the (correctly termed) goatee, is not, I think, a good look. To correctly grow facial hair, you need to have enough facial hair to have facial hair, but you still need to keep it groomed through regular trimming and shampooing. (Which is why beard-wearers find out that one of the most common reasons for beards, hatred of shaving, doesn’t really apply.)

The obvious function of facial hair is to change your appearance. Mustaches tend to widen the face, goatees and Van Dykes narrow the face, and beards broaden the face. My mother once had a boss who decided to shave his mustache because it was too gray; the mustache returned when he discovered he had, well, a weak upper lip. (Without the mustache, he looked something like actor Robert Ryan.) Mustaches can cover up cleft-palate scars (for instance, actor Stacy Keach), and beards can cover up acne scars.

My facial hair is certainly more gray than my head hair. I’ve always said that gray hair is preferable to no hair. There are some as well who grow facial hair to obscure their thinning, or thinned-out, head hair. That’s not the case with me; I just make sure I don’t walk past people standing on ladders. Hair or facial hair color can be changed, but that requires ongoing applications of hair dye as your hair grows.

To prove that nearly everything (except apparently a photo of me with a beard) can be found on the Internet, beard-wearers have their own website, Beards.org, which passes on a 1973 study by psychologist Robert Pellegrini of eight men who grew various forms of facial hair:

The tabulation of the results showed a generally positive correlation between the amount of hair on the object person’s face and his being perceived as masculine, mature, good-looking, dominant, self-confident, courageous, liberal, non-conforming, and older. The results also suggested a similar correlation regarding perceptions of intelligence, strength, health, and likableness. In view of the results, Pellegrini suggested that the presence of hair on a young man’s face is associated with an idealized image of the male personality. …

In his discussion of the experiment’s results, Pellegrini stated, “Judging from the data in the present research, the male beard communicates an heroic image of the independent, sturdy, and resourceful pioneer, ready, willing and able to do manly things.” He finished his discussion by stating, “In conclusion, it may very well be true that inside every clean-shaven man there is a beard screaming to be let out. If so, the results of the present study provide a strong rationale for indulging that demand.”

Beards.org’s creator, Steve Wilson, wrote on The Art of Manliness website:

Growing a beard is an affirmation of manliness and masculinity. The beard itself is a physical characteristic that separates men from the boys, girls, and women. In our culture that has downplayed good old-fashioned masculinity, growing a beard shows that you are not afraid of being a manly man. You can reclaim a too-often-lost aspect of manliness by growing a beard.

Another website, biggerbetterbeards.org, gives 10 reasons to grow a beard, beginning with:

Obviously your ability, or lack thereof, to grow facial hair makes you neither a man nor an invincible murder machine. But in this metrosexual, gender-neutralizing world of ours where the traditional masculine virtues are being threatened and seen as threatening, perhaps facial hair is a way to, in the words of (clean-shaven) National Review founder William  F. Buckley Jr., “stand athwart history yelling stop.”

Want a Biblical justification for facial hair? Someone named Aymon de Albatrus, beginning with Isaiah 50:6: “I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting”:

Even without the testimony of Scripture we can be absolutely sure that Jesus wore a beard. Why? Well who gave the beard to the males of the species? God did, of course. And why? One sure reason is to differentiate between the two sexes for: “Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.” (Gen 5:2) So He created them differently and as it is stated all over His Scripture, God differentiates between the things He has made, for example: Jews and Gentiles, Masters and Slaves, Men and Women, etc. God is NOT an egalitarian God, but a God of distinction. Even the way man and woman dress Deu 22:5 is to be different and also the way they wear their hair 1Co 11:14-15, and everything else, including functions, between them has to have a clear distinction.

That God gave the beard to the man to be kept is certain and if God has given something is to be had for sure for God is perfect in every way, by definition. Thus when imperfect man is shaving off the beard God gave him what is he really saying to God? “Look God, you made a mistake here, I know better, let me help you, and negate what you erroneously gave and I shall fix it by removing it. Indeed if I could I would eradicate it completely, for my wife does not like it.” The shaving of the beard off is a rebellious act toward God and His creation, if not a defying act of arrogance.

The way that God has made Man is with a beard. When we shave it to “beautify” ourselves, as the ancient Greeks and Romans did, we alter God’s design for us. It is a profaning or defiling and rejection of what God has made.

(I’ll have to mull that over come Easter.)

The facial hair counterargument comes from John Molloy, the author of Dress for Success, who wrote in 1975:

Most men should not wear facial hair of any kind. The response to facial hair is always negative in corporate situations, and the only men who should wear it are those men who must compensate for some other weakness in their appearance or personality. A beard and/or a mustache can make a man more powerful and more masculine looking. If a man looks very young, a mustache or beard can speed up the aging process.

Virden Thornton, president of The Selling Edge, adds:

Often a younger sales representative or service professional will grow a beard or goatee to look more mature to prospects, customers or clients. However, additional research by [Molloy] suggests that wearing facial hair can cost a sales or service professional as much as 30% in sales success, because a large number of decision-makers find beards to look sinister or offensive. They see the representative wearing a beard or goatee as not being as trustworthy as a representative who is clean-shaven. In a recent study reported by Fox News, over 90 percent of the women surveyed prefer men to be clean shaven over those with facial hair. You need to ask yourself if allowing staff members to dress down or wear a beard is worth the lost revenue to your organization.

That may be applicable in the sales world. In the creative world (which includes the media), however, conformity is not a positive. When I first interviewed for the Marketplace Magazine editor position in 1994, my mother asked if I was going to shave off my beard for the interview. And I replied that I wasn’t, because if a potential employer was going to judge me based on my appearance instead of my work, I wasn’t interested in working there. (That goes far beyond facial hair, of course, and I got the job anyway.) Obviously one’s appearance should not be a negative (for instance, excessive piercings or tattoos), but a smart employer should be interested first and foremost in job performance, particularly in an era of labor shortages in many job sectors. The point is to look, but more importantly act, professional.

One area in which facial hair — in fact, anything beyond stolidly dull personal appearance — is quite rare is in politics. (Another reason I am unlikely to get elected to the U.S. Senate.) Our last president with facial hair was William Howard Taft, successor of the mustachioed Theodore Roosevelt. Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has what could best be called a “cop-stache,” but unfortunately for Cain he won’t have the American Mustache Institute‘s endorsement. That appears to leave those facial-hair-wearing members of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy needing to hope for former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton to run.

What does “Face the Face” refer to? Not facial hair, but you try to find a headline that matches this subject:


6 thoughts on “A hairy subject, or Face the face

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