Today, it is the World Beard Day (WBD). Congratulations to us! The origins of the WBD are still unknown. However, there’s a legend that says that the Danish Vikings had a very special day dedicated to the celebration of the beard! The legend says it started around the year 800 AD. Historical appreciation is obvious through centuries and in diverse cultures and civilizations before the ‘chosen date’ and pretty far from the areas inhabited by the Vikings! Sorry Hagar the Horrible! The history (of art) teaches us the opposite, starting from Lebanon and Mesopotamia (Phoenicians, Sumerians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Chaldeans, Medians…) to Ancient Egypt (app. 3000 yrs. BC), Persia, India… to Greece and Rome and then the Celts and Germanic tribes!
I am a bearded guy. I’ve been bearded practically since the days of my adolescence. I changed different styles of beard over time and different lengths, from more natural looks, like the full beard, to ‘goatee style’, stubble medium or long, ‘extended goatee’, old Dutch, Phoenician… to long square full beard. I wear glasses and I grow a beard. That’s me. That’s my style, regardless of the trends and which is more important – it is a part of my identity – visual, personal, substantial… taking into account the attitude that we are not ‘single-identity’ beings. I cannot imagine myself shaving every morning. I am not used to repetitive actions and fulfillment of conventional meaningless forms. I constantly keep refusing that all my life. Studies show that this particular trait of masculinity is a typical sign of ‘sex appeal’ for the opposite sex… and supposedly serves for the social competitiveness among males, of course! Frankly, I never considered my beard the simple phenotypic extension of masculinity and domination in the group. Of all the explanations available – I was never much impressed by the ‘pure biological’ theories.
Social “stigmata” of our society, often link the beard to belonging to certain groups or subgroups – ethnical, social, religious… Thus, the traditional ‘social virtues’ like wisdom, certain social status inclining to higher categories, strength – political and physical are not any more directly correlated to the beard as the symbol, which changed mostly in the two previous decades. The first series of the “beard related stigmata” in ‘western civilization’ in the second half of 20th century deals with the hippie movement, with guerilla soldiers, civil-wars and recently even with terrorism. The beard of the “icons of freedom” and “political rebels” is perceived differently over time. The “negative” connotation of wearing beard in our days goes so far, that bearded men are often stigmatized and treated accordingly following the clichés: either terrorists or fashion-victims. Black and white fallacy! Binary thinking proved to be disturbing and worrisome. On the other side, the beard as the symbol may be misunderstood as the “code” of belonging to a certain group. The either extreme proved to be wrong. The perception of the bearded men changes over time, particularly in the periods of strong polarization in the society, i.e. the times of crisis deeply dividing the societies.
I was recently presented an article in a magazine, about the fashion phenomenon of the beard and it says: “If you are a bearded-by-trend guy, then there are two words for you: shave it. If you are a bearded-by-lifestyle guy, then there are two words for you: keep it.” Growing a beard requires certain attitudes, moral values and determination, even strength. And refusals! It’s not just another trend in fashion!