Angus Stone: Lazy or wanker? Big man beard styles.
You know the whole facial hair thing has got out of hand when our august National Portrait Gallery in Canberra jumps in on the act.
Its latest exhibition, curated by Joanne Gilmour, is titled Jo's Mo Show (with Beards), a collection of more than 60 portraits illustrating 200 years of Aussie face spinach, from Captain Cook to poet Henry Lawson, actor Errol Flynn to cricketer Max Walker.
In my neighbourhood, you can pretty much split beard wearers into those two broad categories, aka, slobs and wankers.
Part of the arrogance of being alive is we forget those who came before us were quite similar, thus fashion has always made a statement about who a person thinks they are, and it's also been very much the case with facial hair.
A case in point is how centuries of bad-arse beard-wearing went out the door in the 1700s, when growing whiskers was "likely to cast one into the category of eccentric, insane or otherwise unreasoned and ungoverned", according to the exhibition's website.
The British then imported the idea to our shores that shaving was the mark of a "civilised man", while they butchered the indigenous population. One astonished blackfella even "wanted to know of what sex we were... as they took us for women, not having our beards grown", said Phillip Gidley King, the third governor of NSW, in 1788.
Big man beard styles
By the mid 1800s, fashion had flipped, with "beards considered an outward, physical expression of the masculine attributes most prized in Victorian times". It then flopped again during the war years of the 1900s, when going clean shaven was the mark of a brave soldier and a pencil-thin mo, the province of men aping matinee idols such as Errol Flynn.
So what does the resurgence of beards in the noughties say about Aussie men now?
Gilmore puts a tad too much thought into it, if you ask me, saying on the exhibition's website: "Some suggest beards and moustaches... have re-emerged in response to the social conservatism of the... Bush/Howard eras.
"Others locate the 21-century's fluidity of gender distinctions... and the corresponding reclamation and renegotiation of traditional masculine roles and virtues - as a basis for the beard's re-emergence."
Really? I reckon it's down to two factors: laziness and pretension. In my neighbourhood, you can pretty much split beard wearers into those two broad categories, aka, slobs and wankers.
I'd humbly submit my attempts at a beard fall into the first group because, like many guys, I hate shaving and don't have an office job where my lack of grooming can be used as a barometer of my cleanliness, competency or commitment.
I reckon the vast majority of beard wearers start in this camp but, after a while, a certain type of dude gets bored and looks for something different. I'm sure this is how the old-school beard styles in the National Portrait Gallery's exhibition - such as the " Parkes ", " Barkley " and " Lambert " - began.
But know this: once you spend more time grooming a beard than you would shaving, you've veered dangerously into wanker territory.
American comedian Adam Carolla describes this bloke as one who cultivates a razor-thin "stripe going ear to ear and over the top of his upper lip".
"Never have more calories been spent achieving a worse look. Why would somebody cultivate a look that required an extra hour in the mirror each morning? Exactly. It's because this narcissistic f--- gets to stare at his Jersey Shore ass for an extra hour in the mirror," says Carolla.
In the coming month, thanks to the superb fund-raising efforts of Movember, tens of thousands of Aussie men will come "face to face" with this choice as they sculpt stubble into a statement about who they are or, perhaps, who they'd like to be.
But no matter what they come up with, remember... it's all been done before.
Big man beard styles
Sam de Brito's latest novel Hello Darkness is in bookstores now. You can follow him on Twitter here.