Since the dawn of the beard revolution in 2011, fashionistas and social commentators have been predicting the decline of the beard. Considered by many to be a passing fad, it was thought that beards would enter mainstream consciousness, give us a good laugh and disappear like a flash in the pan. But almost a decade later and every man and his dog are still sporting facial hair in some form or another.
Conor Mcgregor has wiry bushy beard. Prince Harry has a stubbly ginger beard and Eminem has one that looks like it’s been drawn on with eyeliner. Over the past 10 years beards in the western world have not only surged in popularity, but maintained credibility thanks to celebrities, high-profile individuals and of course social media. Facial hair in all its variety is now widely accepted by society and there doesn’t appear to be any sign of it going away.
To be fair to the pundits and commentators, there is good reason to believe that the current bearded resurgence is just another trend.
Ever since the industrial revolution beards have ebbed and flowed in and out of fashion like a meandering river. In the mid-19th century a strong bushy beard was considered the epitome of manliness and spoke to a man’s stature. It is said that Abraham Lincoln stayed at home for much of his election year in 1860, just to grow his beard!
The 20th century saw beards appear and disappear like an unwanted guest at a dinner party. At the dawn of the century Edwardian England rejected the full beard look in favour of a clean-shaven face or moustache. The distain for beards continued throughout both the first and second world wars until finally making a resurgence in the 1960s. Thanks largely to the rise of counter culture and the anti-war movement in the US, beards became a symbol of freedom and self-expression.
At the beginning of the 1980s, the beard dissolved once more, along with freedom and self-expression. Money was the new game in town and in order to earn it you had to be clean shaven. Apparently, HSBC had a clean-shaven policy during this time! Clearly capitalism was not a fan of the beard.
So what’s so different about the current beard revolution?
Well, for the first time in human history beards may have transcended cultural attitudes and epochs. Unlike previous trends, the current beard renaissance seems to be non-secular and unbeholden to religion, occupation, political affiliation or class. The beard of 2020 belongs to the everyman, not just the hippie, religious leader or politician.
Our global attitude towards beards certainly appears to be changing. In 2019, The Royal Air Force (RAF) officially allowed service personnel to wear neatly trimmed, full set beards. Beards had previously been banned for historical and practical reasons. Capitalism, once the arch enemy of the beard, is even warming to the idea of facial hair. Skincare behemoths like Nivea are now producing products that cater for the bearded man such as beard oil and beard balm.
It’s hard to say if the great beard revolution will last, but one thing is certain, beards are most definitely still in.
Viva la beard!