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When I was a kid, I asked my dad about shaving and why he did it. He said it was something that grownups do and that I’d understood when I got a little older. At nine years of age, it was an answer I got a lot. Still, I was enamored with the idea of being a grownup and wanted to do whatever I could to expedite the process. Besides that, there was just something about shaving that intrigued me. Maybe it was the grating of metal against skin, the sound it made as it scrubbed against his stubble, or the dramatic change that his face underwent…whatever it was, it was cool. So, when my dad shot down my request to shave along with him, I was heartbroken. Too young? No way, man…I was ready to go. So, one day while he was at work I slipped into the bathroom, found his razor, and prepared to take my first step into adulthood. I knew that he used shaving cream, but it was set high up on a shelf and I couldn’t reach it. Who needed it anyway? I took the razor and in one quick, broad stroke I drug it down my cheek. It took off all the fine little hairs I had cultivated throughout my life up to that point along with a big piece of my skin. There was blood everywhere and, judging by the reaction of my older sister, it looked like a scene out of a horror movie. I got patched up, no stitches needed, and waited for my father to get home. I waited stoically for my fate. He had told me I was too young and, even though I never actually asked to see his razor, I was pretty sure it was off limits. When he got home from work, I could hear him and my mom talking about it in the kitchen and it didn’t sound good. I stood bravely at the door of my bedroom expecting the worst. He rounded the corner of the hall and stopped short of where I was standing and just looked at me for a second before saying, “Did it hurt?” I agreed that it had, in fact, hurt. He smiled and said,“Guess you won’t do it again, huh?” I shook my head. “Good…lesson learned, then. Come here, kiddo.” He picked me up and gave me a brief hug, checked out the wound up close, and then set me down. “Come on, tough guy, let’s go eat some dinner.”
“Guess you won’t do it again, huh?” He said.
And I didn’t, at least not fully. For as long as I can remember and have had the ability I have maintained one form of facial hair or the other. It started as a superfine line of ever so slightly darker hairs above my upper lip. It was the first indication of my manhood and it felt good. It got darker and eventually other people could see it too. Then, came the chin hair. It was almost like a goatee…just patchy and thin. But, you could see it. If you squinted. I kept my facial hair trimmed into that tight goatee, though increasingly thicker, for a long time. It was a popular style. Occasionally, I would venture into a thin beard, but when I didn’t have the patience required to grow it out, I would give up and shave it back down to just the chin guard most people were used to seeing me with. Years went by. A lot of them. Then, a crazy thing happened—my step son, who was a clean-shaven boy when I came into his life, turned into a full-grown man complete with one robust, glorious beard. It took him over a year, but it looked good on him. Then, I started to notice that beards had returned to popularity the likes of which we hadn’t seen since the Civil War. It was a sign of the return of true masculinity. Well, mostly anyway. There were the hipsters, after all. Still, it appeared that being manly was again in fashion and I was finally ready to grow out my own soup catcher.
It took a few months, but it came in nicely. I’ve been accepted into the subculture and I now get the head bobs of acknowledgement from other bearded men I run into. Life is good. I have to keep it neat though; my job requires me to dress well and be well groomed. The formal policy of the company does not exclude men having a beard, but it's got to be tidy. That’s the official policy unless you work for my most recent boss. He's a very clean-shaven egotist that thinks that unless you look and dress like him you’re not up to code. Most days he wouldn’t come right out and criticize. Instead, being the most efficient user of passive aggressive communication that I have ever met, he would just say something like, “I see you’re still growing your beard” or “Did we forget to trim this morning?” I hated that guy. Then, one day when he was being particularly jerk faced about it, he asked, “Why do you want that thing on your face?”. Turns out, I really didn’t have much more in my arsenal of rebuttals than, “I just like it.” I was caught unaware and defenseless and I didn’t like that. So, in trying to arm myself better against people like him and to provide others that might find themselves in similar situations a clever, well thought out retort, I give you what I have found to be the ten most compelling reasons to grow a beard. Use them wisely.
The 10 Most Compelling Reasons You Need a Beard
1. Beards hide ugly.
I had to start with this. I’m sorry, guys, but the truth is that some of us are ugly. There’s no shame in it. I mean, we all have to play with the hand we are dealt, right? Here’s the thing, though…beards can make you less ugly. In fact, in some cases, beards can completely turn things around for you. Take the case of Abraham Lincoln. Now, I don’t think anybody, except maybe Mary Todd, would go on record saying that Abe was a good-looking dude regardless of whether he was sporting his famous beard. But, the significant difference between beardless Abe and bearded Abe was enough to get him elected President of the United States. Most of us won’t see the same level upgrade, but a beard can have a pleasing effect on even the homeliest mugs.
2. Beards act as a natural filter.
Here’s the science, boys. We’ll start with the obvious—beards can block up to 95 percent of harmful UV rays, which in some studies are linked directly with several types of skin cancer. As if that isn’t reason enough to grow a chin curtain, recent studies have shown that having a beard can provide several health benefits due to providing a natural filtration system for the air you breathe in, especially when coupled with a full mustache. You see, the beard/mustache combo acts as a filter that can catch a substantial percentage of the germs and bacteria naturally occurring in the air around us. This can help you avoid gum disease, significantly lessen the effects of colds and allergies, and has been shown to prevent acne. So, beards make you healthier.
3. Masculinity and Confidence
Hercules. King Leonidas. Thor and Odin. Recently, Captain America. Gandalf, both the grey and the white versions. Mr. T. Chuck Norris. Yosemite Sam. John Wick. Grizzly Adams. Earnest Hemingway. Hell, Jason Momoa made Aquaman look bad ass because he had one. The list is long. These guys, and many more, have in some cases literally saved western civilization and changed the world. They are men – manly men – and they all have one thing in common. They are bearded. Beards provide you with a look that hearkens back to these great men, and often equates to confidence that is evident to all. It’s as if growing a beard is linked to living by a higher set of standards. Beards call you to the carpet and say, “Be brave. Be loyal. Save the world.”
4. God's Design
If we weren’t supposed to have beards, why is God so persistent about it? I mean, you can shave twice a day and that shit just keeps coming back. Who are we to question the Almighty’s plan for us?
5. Time Management
How long does it take to shave your face every day? An extra ten minutes? Perhaps longer if you’re one of those touchy feely types that require a pre-shave, a conditioner like shave butter, and an after shave. For the sake of math, let’s stick with ten minutes…that’s 61 hours per year of shave time you get back by growing a beard. Two and a half days of your life every year. Still wondering if it’s worth it? Here is a quick list on productive things you can do with an extra 10 minutes:
• Go for a power walk.
• Stretch – great for general heath.
• Catch up on world news.
• Compose the day’s To-Do list and prioritize.
• Meditate—studies show this has a wide range of health benefits.
• Make your bed.
• Write in a journal.
• Drink a beer.
• Smoke a cigar…one of the small ones, anyway.
• Sleep in.
This is a big one that you really won’t get unless you have a beard. You see, there is a huge subculture built around having a beard or loving men that do. Don’t believe me? Take a second and either Google it or just type in “beard” on your favorite social media site. It’s like a grown up “No Girls Allowed” club and just by having a beard, big or small, you are a member. Guys you don’t know will give you the head tilt of acknowledgement when you pass each other in public. That head nod speaks volumes. It says, “Hey, man. You have a great beard. I also have a great beard. We are friends now.” You get a sense of power and unity like nothing else when you join the Order of Bearded Men. It’s hard to explain to the non-bearded, but most secret societies are.
7. Project Mindfulness
My friends, you can be straight up dumb as a sack of rocks, but when you have a well maintained beard people will assume you are have deeper thoughts and are a more developed thinker. And if there is any doubt, just sit back and slowly stroke your beard while looking ponderous. Your mind can be as blank as most of the test questions on your SAT and people will still assume you are mulling over the greatest secrets of the universe. Still doubting? Let me throw some names at you—Walt Whitman, Leonardo da Vinci, Socrates, Confucius, Dr. Seuss, Galileo, Sigmund Freud, and Bob Ross. All great thinkers...all bearded men.
8. Warmth in the Winter
OK, this one’s kind of weak. The truth is, it does kind of keep your face warmer in the winter. Especially if the wind is blowing, which by the way looks epic with a great beard. But, make no mistake…manliness is not seasonal.
9. Beards are a superpower.
Beards change lives. Nowhere is this more evident than in pop culture. I have three case studies for you to chew on. Luciano Pavarotti. Heard of him? Of course, you have. He started out as just a small-time singer that only played local venues in his home town. Then, he grew an epic beard and became an international superstar. How about Steve Jobs? When he first started Apple, he was beardless and it nearly failed. He grew a beard, got back involved with the company and turned it into one of the largest, most successful companies in history. Then there's Ben Affleck…the best example of the group. Our boy Ben was, let’s just say it, a C-list actor with only a couple movies that were worth watching. Then, he grew a beard. Next thing you know he’s winning an Oscar and more importantly, he’s Batman. Beards change lives.
10. Women dig beards.
Personally, I find this one to be self-evident. And if you are beardless and are about to say that your wife or girlfriend doesn’t like beards, let me stop you. She’s lying to you. I’m sorry. Look around you next time you are out in public with her. See the bearded guy at the table in the corner? Yeah, she saw him too. Count on it. Don’t take my word for it though, science can back it up. A study done by Dixon and Brooks in 2013 found that women ranked bearded men highest in maturity, parenting ability and over all healthiness. Not great, unless you take into consideration that women, based on most agreed upon science, tend to base their decisions about mate attractiveness on two things: Can they provide long-term stability, and will they be good fathers. Check. But, it gets better. When the pictures shown to the women in the study began showing men with increasingly heavier beards, they ranked those men the highest in overall masculinity. Check and Mate. Science not your thing? OK…how about social media? With a quick search on Facebook I found a multitude of pages dedicated to beards. At the top of the list was “Girls Who Love Beards” which currently has 5822 followers. As you read through the posts and comments, you'll find women using words like safe, wild, sexy, protected, and loyal. Chicks dig the bearded.
I could go on, but I've given you my top ten list based on my research. That should be enough to beat back the smooth faced skeptics. The truth is, I had a lot of fun writing this article and I am certainly better prepared to deal with the naysayers out there that insist that a close shaved face is better. Yet, in the end, it’s a preference. You got to do what you think is best for you. And I didn’t really mean it when I said your wife or girlfriend was lying when she told you she liked your smooth face. She’s not. Probably. But, if by chance you should look in the mirror one day and think, “hey, I wonder what I’d look like with a beard?” I want to be the first to encourage you to take the journey and to welcome you to the brotherhood. I’m going to leave you with this quote from William Wallace, the Scottish hero made famous in the movie Braveheart. It honestly doesn’t have any relevance, I just thought it was cool.
“Return to your friends and tell them that we came here with no peaceful intent, but ready for battle, and determined to avenge our own wrongs and set our country free. Let your masters come and attack us: we are ready to meet them beard to beard.” ~ William Wallace