Way back in the mists of the distant past, probably sometime in the late 1990s, a man grew a beard. It looked good—masculine, rugged but not unclean, the beard of a guy who had a bunch of different tools and knew how to use all of them, but also the beard of a guy who read poetry in his spare time and understood it. Other men saw that this was good and decided to grow their own beards, and in this way, a trend was born. Men talked about their beards. They groomed their beards. People went on television to discuss beards—were they good? Yes, they were. Beards were judged in contests. Histories of beards were written and published. Famous people grew beards, and these too were found to be good. Cool beards.
But now, a newspaper distributed throughout the land—a publication so august and prestigious it is known as the Journal of Wall Street— brings us troubling news of beards: Is the beard trend over? Is The Beard Trend Over? IS THE BEARD TREND OVER?!?!?
The paper first notes how popular beards have become, with many actors using them to "telegraph maturity." Indeed, beards have become ubiquitous: "Flick on the TV and stubbled spokesmen hawk Old Spice deodorant and Sony PlayStations; in the sports world, pros like Houston Rockets player James Harden are as famous for their burly beards as for their ball-handling skills."
Yes, many erudite and hirsute readers thought, The beard is beloved. Beards are good! What a joy it is to read in a paper of note opinions that pleasingly conform to my own. But wait! What's this? The next line: "Far from standing out for their scruff, bearded men have become almost boringly normal."
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Full disclosure: I am facially haired, as are many of my friends and colleagues. We do not do this out of personal preference or shave-laziness, but out of a slavish, obsessive attention to the minute swings of ever-changing popular opinion as represented by a half-dozen people in New York who spend their days brunching and their nights in the bathrooms of various art galleries. Obviously we do not want to admit that beards are bad, but when faced with the carefully documented and exhaustive evidence compiled by the Journal, we have no choice but to return to our razors like the craven, despicable trend chasers we are.
Here is the paper's indisputable proof: According to a 24-year-old—the hippest age—who works in sales—the hippest field—at Ralph Lauren—the hippest brand—beards are bad: "You go to a bar, and all you see are bearded dudes. I don't like it," he told the Journal.
This marks a dramatic shift from the not-at-all-made-up-for-the-sake-of-trend-pieces styles of yesteryear. It was only a few short years ago that the nation's most keen-eyed observers of fashion were examining the term "lumbersexual," which denoted men who pretended to be adept at chopping wood when in reality their jobs mostly consisted of sending emails to one another, then attending meetings. This trend did not extend to actually operating chainsaws, likely due to the inherent dangers of doing so with a long beard, but it proved durable nonetheless.
Barbers quoted in the Journal article noted that even among the stubbornly bearded, it is now fashionable to reduce them in volume. To drive home this point, the paper published a photo selection ridiculing "Celebrities with Questionable Beards," which mercilessly mocked stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio. "Leo's mountain man beard worked for him during his turn as fur trapper Hugh Glass in The Revenant, but is it the best look for the wilds of Hollywood?" one caption asked. Presumably, the answer is "no." Burn.
If photos of famous people and the undeniable testimony of a 24-year-old aren't enough to convince you that beards are uncool, perhaps you will be persuaded by a survey finding that 67 percent of men in stylish, cutting-edge New York City have beards—as everyone knows, nothing signals the death of a trend like its extreme popularity. Whereas once a beard signaled rebellion, a devil-may-care attitude that told the world, I decided not to shave for a while, now they just telegraph a sheep-like conformity or an unmanly fear of exposing one's face to the elements. What are the bearded trying to hide? many now wonder. Their faces?