Monday, 28 July 2014

Ode to the beard

By Yvonne M Carson

Matt : I need to write a blog for tomorrow.
Yvonne : I’ll write you a blog, on beards.
Matt : It doesn’t have to be long.
Yvonne : Unlike a beard! Boom boom!

So, I have been pondering the subject of beards for some time - you may picture me stroking my chin as if stroking an imaginary beard of my own - since they seem to be appearing all over the place. That is, they are appearing on the faces of all kinds of people, usually male!

I have issues with beards and identity. When I was 8, my family moved overseas. At the same time my Dad - who had always been clean-shaven and known as ‘Stuart’ - suddenly morphed into ‘Jim’ and grew facial hair. Even my mother gave in and started calling him Jim. Having left the armed forces after 22 years, Dad was finally permitted to let loose with the whiskers in his new job as a civilian.

These days, many chaps see beards as a fashion statement and they sport them like a new pair of trainers or a new hair cut. But through out history and across cultures beards have been much more important as identifiers, for tribal belonging or religious affiliation.

I guess nomadic tribes travelling across deserts have little time or resources to be able to remain beardless, but regardless of practicalities beards have becomes very much an identifying characteristic of orthodox Jewish communities and many Muslim ones too. Then there are sikh gurus, hindu sadhus and many others...

Beards also symbolise rite of passage: a young lad passes through puberty and find his first ‘bum fluff’ on the chin or a muslim man dyes his beard with henna to show he has completed the Hajj (a journey to the city of Mecca).

When I got married, Matt had super short hair and was clean-shaven. Over the last 16 years, he has had: long hair, then cut it all off for charity - the forlorn plait is in a box at home ;( - a goatee, then no beard at all. These days he is sporting a much fuller beard, in what I call an SOA styleee (Sons Of Anarchy - and no, I am not at all obsessed with this TV series), which my sister insists stands for ‘Sad Old Ass’. This from the fourty-something woman who dyes her hair a different colour each Christmas - pot, kettle, black.

It has been pointed out to me that beards are great for storage (crumbs for later; pens; pets).

They are good for insulation - maybe another reason so may nomadic tribes have adopted them, as desert temperatures plummet after dark.

They can be hairy, scary, furry, blurry, fluffy, salt & peppery, but mainly - they are just cool.

PS: Does this mean we females can stop shaving our legs etc now? Maybe that’s a whole other blog...

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