Can you bear the beard?

Most people assume that fashion ends at fabrics, garments and accessories. But the reality is that the way we present ourselves often becomes part of an emerging trend. The way that we adorn our bodies through basic or extreme body modifications such as haircuts and piercings are more than personal statements, they are a huge part of fashion. Some trends find a way to weave in and out of the fashion world multiple times and like most recurring trends they only evolve when they hit the extreme. One of these trends is currently dominating men’s fashion, attracting a lot of dramatic love and hate; the beard. The beard made its way back into mainstream fashion as an icon of “hipster style” but quickly spread among men with various style and it has become popular enough to blame for a loss of sales among razor companies.

For a long time, the professional look for men included a clean, smooth face and most women wanted lovers with the same features, at most some stubble or a “5 o’clock shadow” could pass as sexy. This stubble slowly grew to be the bigger the better. Full, bushy beards have become extremely common among wide demographics of men from poster boys for popular fashion brands to baristas in the average coffee shop. The beard trend is without limits and restrictions, the only requirement is the physical ability to grow one.

Throughout human history beards have always been a significant part of male identity. Many religions such as Islam and Sikhism consider facial hair as a sign of religious loyalty and many cultures view it as essential to a man’s virility, associating it with virtues such as strength, power, special status and wisdom. The beard has a long history with many iconic figures such as warriors, scientists and religious leaders using it to distinguish themselves and display power. In most Western cultures fashion and social norms dictate the significance of facial hair.

Most trends in fashion work like a pendulum, always swinging from one extreme to another so it is natural for years of bare naked faces to be followed with a major beard craze. The roots of this current trend could be linked to hipster identity that became popular during the past few years but quickly spread into other styles and identities. The growing love of beards also shone light on previous looks that included beards, such as lumberjack styles. What makes this facial hair trend unique to others is the minimal maintenance and natural look that wearers aim for. Most men allow their beards to grow to the full potential and only trim what they must. Long, bushy and shaggy is a successful attempt at a beard.

I am a woman who has lost the war with the beard. I have always liked a man with a clean face who pays attention to the hair on his head and not the hair on his face. I was also overwhelmed with the fear of a facial carpet burn when my bearded significant other approached me with a kiss. When Movember came around, my partner decided to follow it with DecemBerad, Manuary and FebuHairy….soon I found myself in a relationship with what seemed to be a 24 year old Santa Claus. I spent months fighting this repulsive look but eventually the beard grew on me (NOT literally) and I learned to like it and eventually love it. I now consider myself attached to this feature on my partner and have nightmares about the babyface I would be left with if it were gone. I also realized how important it is for me as an emerging fashion designer to learn how to embrace new trends. Having beards as an acceptable trend allows men to approach fashion in a more relaxed and natural way and designers to explore and experiment with gender identity with a high fashion perspective. The best part of this trend is that the majority of men could pull it off and incorporate it into their usual style which means more variety and options that brings on a new level of liberation for designers, trend setters and followers of fashion.

About author

Padina Bondar is a graduate of Ryerson University with a bachelor’s degree in fashion design. She places an emphasis on craftsmanship and detail along with traditional/historic methods of construction. She has experience with a wide range of customers, providing services in design, illustration, construction, pattern drafting, styling and costuming.