After many years of being an advocate for a clean shave I started to dabble with stubble in the belief it rather suited me. After a change of workplace I quickly noticed that the ‘rules’ around appearance were somewhat relaxed and far less regimental. A turning point for me was to embrace the facial hair. When I was younger it always felt like a bit of a curse. Having to clean shave daily, otherwise it was evident I hadn’t bothered. Often hearing comments such as “I wish my facial hair grew like yours”. They just didn’t know the half of it. A daily dose of shaving can feel like a real burden! So I decided to let the stubble grow and from there, it was apparent that I grew a full and strong beard, very quickly. Soon it became a talking point, a conversation starter, always point of discussion and for me, a social experiment of sorts. As the weeks passed, such comments as “oh so you’re the beardy guy – I’ve heard about you” happened and the momentum around who I am was increased over time.
An interesting part of all this is how you instantly divide opinion – the Marmite effect. I found that people are either pro or con for the beard and rarely on the fence. You hear many comments about how you look scruffy and that it should be shaved off but this is instantly forgotten due to just one person that speaks about it in a positive light. “Nice beard mate” out of the blue is just one simple comment that gives you the feel good factor. All the time spent growing it and nurturing it along with regular care – conditioner, regular brushing, and oil regimes – pays off. The simple comment gives you the real feel that ‘this is worth it’. Someone felt the need to say something that almost feels like a ‘well done’. These kind of comments make you realise that there is a real admiration for a great beard. Although beards seem common – the fact is they aren’t. Sporting such a full beard almost becomes a beacon of hope for the many men who would love to grow a similar specimen but can’t. This alone can be a driver to continue sporting the results of my fine follicles.
I’m a fortunate fellow in that my partner Lily does not mind me having it at all. I can be beardless or beardy and she is happy. I tend to find partners to be a huge stumbling block for a beard grower. The closeness you have to a partner and all the time and love invested in a relationship can certainly weigh heavily on a decision to have beard. I am sure there are many out there who have been shackled by the opinion of their partner and whilst I find this understandable I like to think it’s the way you are ‘meant to be’. These are the qualities passed down from your parents and make up your DNA. Ironically there is a DNA when it comes to beards in a relationship. Did Not Agree!
Sure I have sacrificed the beard on occasions, for personal choice on occasion, and for my Movember campaign on the other. I’m a real ambassador for facial hair and the good causes growing it can help. Men and women all having conversations about health and more importantly acting upon their concerns about their health is a continuing issue we must face into. Choosing to shave off a very long 6 month vintage beard for the cause is the least I can do and it certainly helps to raise the profile of the campaign amongst those I speak to.
Many believe by having a beard you are trying to fit a certain look. I don’t agree. The mere implication that I’m a hipster because of facial hair can be grating. It seems like a far too common reference to put beards into a category. The truth is you can’t and why should we. Beards exist in all walks of life – whether it’s for religious reason or personal preference. The rise of the likes of Ricki Hall, Billy Huxley, and Chris Millington (to name a few) have certainly driven a trend along in the past couple of years. I certainly admire what they have done for the world of bearding but the expectation from so many that tattoos must accompany a beard are misplaced. It’s all personal preference of course. These chaps are pioneers of that particular look and I’m sure they are flattered by the rise of it in the public domain.
Having a beard is less about why I started it but more so about why I keep it. It gives me a sense of pride and makes me feel good in many different ways – whether it’s a simple comment from a passer-by or someone having a good old stare when in public – I take it as a compliment. The fact someone can take just a moment out their day to show their appreciation or even have a prolonged look and whisper to a friend then for that moment it feels like the beard that is part of me, which I lovingly nurture, has got just a small bit of attention that I think it deserves.