22nd January 2014

Beard blogs and fantastic facial hair

By Meg Etheridge on Wednesday January 22, 2014

Question: What do Father Christmas, Gandalf, Jeremy Paxman , Michael Eavis, and Fidel Castro all have in common?   (Clue: not just the start of some sort of bad joke as it may first appear).

Answer: They all sport (or have sported in the case of Paxman, who has shaved his off recently announced ‘that the beard was in fact so 2013’) superior beards  – wondrous whiskers, if you will.

But is the beard so 2013?  What are ‘men in the know’ doing about their facial hair post-Movember?

I have personally had a fascination with beards ever since marvelling at the one belonging to Mr Twit in the Roald Dahl classic – his facial forest affectionately named The Dirty Hive back in November in Puffin’s celebratory Movember blog.

As a resident of Manchester’s Northern Quarter, I confess I am partial to a bit of shameless ‘beard spotting’.  Something about artisan coffee and real ale is definitely a magnet for a certain type of checked-shirted gentleman, his identity often semi-concealed by a wiry cloud of rugged face foliage.  In this seemingly unending sea of beards, a beardless man is a rare species.   It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that this stretch of the city is also home to the drinking establishment The Port Street Ale House, which has just been named The Beard Friendly Pub of the Year Out of London.

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly when the beard became such a sought-after facial accessory.  Historically a symbol of virility, wisdom and masculinity, the beard has at times suffered a bad press – think back to the Tom Hardy ‘beard bashing’ of last year – but has most definitely bounced back.

Paxman caused a social media storm when he appeared on Newsnight last year proudly sporting his neatly clipped version, #Paxmanbeard quickly becoming a trending topic.  Paxman defended his choice of facial hair with a statement on Twitter declaring the BBC ‘Pogonophobic’ – Pognophobia being the ‘fear of beards’.

Choirmaster Gareth Malone’s bright ginger beard caused a similar stir back in November, the whole commotion summed up snappily by Paxman as “a storm in a shaving mug”.  Gareth Malone in fact went on to win the highly sought after award of ‘Beard of the Year’ in 2013.

Is the beard’s popularity waning?  Evidence suggests quite the opposite.  For your browsing pleasure: this beard blog has had over 25 million views and has 60,000 likes on its Facebook page.

Men, throw away the electric razors and return the clippers – the beard is here to stay.  A final word of advice from Twitter for those on the fence about whether to ‘grow or not to grow’…