Jay Carney, the White House press secretary. Credit Mark Wilson/Getty Images Hip beard styles.
The gasps were audible when Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, strolled to the briefing room podium last Monday sporting the unthinkable, at least by Washington standards: a beard.
Within minutes, Mr. Carney’s Bushwick-inflected fashion statement prompted barbs on Twitter. “Jay Carney rocks lumberjack-chic at the year’s first press conference,” read one typical tweet, from the news site NowThis News.
Sure, conspicuous facial hair may have been “out” in Washington since Chester A. Arthur’s muttonchops, but the assembled reporters might have spared themselves their “whoas.” The beard, until recently the scruffy fashion statement of the plaid-shirt-and-craft-beer creative underclass, has lately been institutionalized, co-opted by The Man not only in the form of pinstripe-clad Beltway insiders, but by Wall Street titans, professional sports golden boys, Us Weekly cover boys and morning-show television hosts.
Forget biker chic or even mixologist chic. For beard purists, Mr. Carney’s adoption of the whiskered look marked an inevitable mainstreaming of a look that defined a subculture. To the Brooklyn set, it’s an echo of that post-’60s moment when longhair migrated from the muddy fields of Woodstock to crew-cut turf like country music and the National Football League. To the culture at large, the whiskered chin suddenly looks as divorced from its rebel origins as the Jolly Roger flag on a Pittsburgh Pirates beer koozie.
Just consider how much the L-train look — until recently, about as common as lip piercings on Wall Street — has been spotted on corner-office types, among them Lloyd C. Blankfein, the Goldman Sachs chief executive, Gary W. Parr, the Lazard vice chairman, and Carl C. Icahn, the financier.
Hip hop beard styles
Al Roker and Matt Lauer of NBC&rsquo,s &ldquo,Today&rdquo, show sprouted beards as part of a &ldquo,No-Shave Today&rdquo, campaign. Credit Eric Liebowitz/NBC
“Beards are for going to Occupy Wall Street assemblies, not for Wall Street elite assemblies,” Daniel Gross wrote last year in The Daily Beast after the steely Goldman chief inspired “feverish speculation” by showing up at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, with what Mr. Gross described as “a tight, whitish-gray thatch of facial hair.” Was this a sign, he joked, that Mr. Blankfein “is going casual,” that he “is thinking of taking up organic farming and the banjo?”
Goldman investors need not have fretted. Beards, as common as ever on the streets of Brooklyn, have shed their underground connotations. In Hollywood, beards were once the province of bad boys (Russell Crowe) and madmen (Zach Galifianakis). These days, however, the beard is the red carpet accessory of choice for the contemporary pretty boy, which is why BuzzFeed recently had no problem rounding up a full 51 of the “ hottest bearded men in Hollywood,” including Ryan Gosling, Jon Hamm, Robert Pattinson and four dozen others.
Andrew Luck, the Indianapolis Colts quarterback. Credit Andrew Weber/Reuters
The beard, too, has lost its anti-establishment potency in athletics. Just a few years ago, Brian Wilson, then the San Francisco Giants’ closer, could assume the mantle of American sport’s reigning eccentric by showing up on the mound with a thick Blackbeard tangle.
Nowadays, the misfit beard has come to connote all-American values like teamwork and leadership, to judge by the Duck Dynasty-style monstrosities sprouting from the chins of numerous members of the 2013 World Series champion Boston Red Sox, who cemented the trusty playoff beard as a cliché of rally cap proportions.
Lloyd C. Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs. Credit Charles Dharapak/Associated Press
Andrew Luck, the Indianapolis Colts’ Stanford-educated quarterback, mounted an epic playoff comeback against the Kansas City Chiefs last weekend wearing a beard (which some referred to as a “neard,” or neck beard) that made him look like a bit player in “Deliverance.”
But perhaps there are limits to the degree of chin bristles that mainstream America will tolerate. When Matt Lauer and Al Roker of NBC’s “Today” show sprouted beards for November as part of a “No-Shave Today” campaign to support men’s health charities, Twitter was ablaze with hobo jokes. “I think if I saw either Al Roker or Matt Lauer on the corner, I would give him a quarter,” a user with the handle @PeterJOrvetti joked.
“We didn’t just do this to look terrible, we did this to raise money,” Mr. Lauer explained on the show.
Hip beard styles
A noble sentiment, sure. But no truer expression of the “establishment beard” was ever spoken.