ShortList style director Adrian Clark questions whether cutting off your beard is liberating or really just a different way of cutting of your nose to spite your face
When half the male cast of TOWIE swaggered onto our screens last season with their clean-cut, Mattel-like chiselled jaws unexpectedly sprouting well-groomed facial hair, the writing was on the wall. Graham Norton then suggested we “must have” reached “peak beard” because even he has one now, jesting that he’s made them “deeply unfashionable”, and frankly, it was game over, right?
There has been much debate surrounding the shelf-life of the facial hair trend, even myself, as a beard wearer for more than a half-a-decade, can’t help but notice that the trend has run its course. It’s a fact, every Tom Dick and Harry has one.
My first reaction, as is usually the case when a fad stops being touted by the minority, was to get rid. With little more than fleeting glance at my facial follicles I decided to jump into the barbers chair and start a new chapter in the form of a “70s porn-star inspired ‘tache.
“I want you to get rid of all the facial hair, but leave the moustache. I want to make a statement, I want it thick and bushy like Burt Reynolds” I told my barber Basir. He didn’t question it, which oddly left me more nervous than if I’d have demanded something more outrageous like a Mohican.
Basir remained silent and sheepish throughout, a contrast to his usual personality and I could sense his heart wasn’t in it, that maybe, as my long-time barber, he was feeling a little betrayed.
“It’s needs to go Basir, everybody has one” I reasoned, Basir silently nodding. I could tell that he wasn’t convinced and that my actions had cut much deeper than his clippers ever could. An hour later, I looked towards the mirror to get a measure of my now resoundingly bald but freshly spritzed chin. What the hell had I done?
Ultimately, trends can come and go, that’s the nature of fashion, and while I’m more than happy to bin the skinnies in favour of the new wider leg trouser, losing my beard was perhaps a step too far. It was more like losing an important part of my identity than simply moving on from a tired look. I quickly realised that, as much of a cliché as it may sound, I am obviously a man who needs something to hide behind, much like a comfort blanket. Ditching my facial hair felt like losing a facet of my personality. Not only that, but it’d happened at my hands (or rather, Basir’s on my instruction). I’d single-handedly (with the help of Basir) decided to make the foolishly brave but stupid decision to throw it all away.
Having worked 25 years in the fashion industry, and having lived through many crazes and fads, I can honestly say I have never experienced a more traumatic transition. “My god, what have you done?” was the first reaction I encountered from my colleagues, aghast as if I’d had a limb mauled off by a Bengal Tiger.
“I needed a change” was my response. “Yeah, but, your beard?” they’d reply, throwing me a look of sadness. Pained acknowledgement that I was backing down and getting the hell out of Beardsville, - acknowledging that we’re in the last days of disco when it comes to full facial coverage.
“It won’t take long to grow back” I’d confidently respond.
“Well why shave it off in the first place if all you’re going to do is mourn and wait for it to grow back?” Clearly this was one of the last things that I wanted to hear but maybe they were right. After all, if the only reason I can give for losing my beard is because too many other men have jumped onto the band wagon, despite the fact I felt at home having one, well maybe some things should remain sacrosanct.
A week in, however and not only have I got used to it, I have grown to love my hairless chin by finding a middle ground solution by replacing replace a closely shaved jaw-line with stubble, it’s the happy medium. A compromise not to be taken lightly. Neither severe enough of a change to leave your friends wondering if you are on the verge of some kind of identity crisis, yet keeping a safe distance from the mainstream. It’s charting new territory, well at least one that hasn’t been fashionable since the 90’s and a more comfortable, climate appropriate alternative for the summer.
Go on try it, you might even like it, and if you don’t get caught up in it as I have, remember “It won’t take long to grow back”.
(Images: Rex; Photography: Uzo Oleh; MODEL: CLEVE HUGHES @ SUPA MANAGEMENT)