Today, for unclear reasons, the Wall Street Journal ran a helpful, timely piece pondering why, exactly, beards are such a thing. It's a good question, I guess! They have been a prevalent facial styling trend for several years now, with no signs of slowing down.
So, why is that? Well, according to the WSJ, it's because of the recession:
"In the space of a month, a city previously filled with energized, well-suited, clean-shaven men became a ghetto of sleep-deprived, scuff-shoed, wrinkle-suited, unshaven shadows shuffling through the streets in a haze of shock and disbelief [...]Fed chairman Ben Bernanke—who became a totem of hope, or at least the last bastion against the threat of another Great Depression—was bearded. The villain of the piece, Bernie Madoff, was not; appearing at all times clean-shaven and bespoke-suited. Suddenly looking less like a successful banker and more like a man who was up to a challenge on the mean streets wasn't only preferable, it was practically mandatory."
Hmm, I don't know about that. Partially because like all fast-and-loose trend speculation, it's based on minimal anecdotal evidence that ties super conveniently into a pre-determined narrative. But also, because most major trends don't tend to originate from Wall Street banker types. No one thinks those guys are cool. That said, beards are a very big deal these days, and it's worth asking why. After some exhaustive, in-depth research, we've come up with seven possible explanations, none of which have to do with the global economy.
Hair removal is a pain. Can I get a what what, ladieees? But really, this makes the most sense. Shaving your entire face every single morning seems like a huge hassle. Why do that when you can... not do that?
I asked my coworker Henry Stewart — a real life beard-sporting man — about this whole thing, and the answer was pretty simple. "I grew a beard as soon as I was able—when I was 20—and have more or less kept it since." Everyone who's seen a horrible, wispy sort-of beard on teenage boys can attest to the importance youths place on the ability to grow a real beard, whether or not they even want one. Some people just never get over it (Henry).
Gross, but maybe real?
Double (or triple) chin? No chin? Crippling acne? All things a beard can fix, basically.
Or so I imagine. An extra layer of insulation on the face would probably be great in the colder months when the wind kicks up and everything is terrible.
Another L Magazine staffer, Mike Conklin, has had a beard since 2001. Before the recession even happened! "I've shaved it off only one time since, and I so hated the way it looked that I basically refused to leave my apartment until it grew back," he said. Which makes a lot of sense. Once you commit to a beard, getting rid of it is a pretty drastic thing to do to your face.
Well, hopefully not. This product was only one of many terrible things I came across in all the beard-related Google Image searching required for this post. It is called a "Beardo." This trend is dead.
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.