Brian Jacobson
Deep-Fried Romantic

Project Winter Beard is a Go

By - Nov 17th, 2010 04:00 am
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The author, up close, personal, and hairier than normal.

It’s week three of Operation: Winter Beard. Things are looking about as well as I imagined. And by “well” I mean ” gawd awful.”

There is a certain cult that has grown around the beard. It seems to be a direct Internet meme descendant of the mustache, but with a little more warm, cuddly and paternal feeling towards the idea. The ‘stache fascination was a little more sexy and dangerous (and later…creepy). The beard, on the other hand, is slightly more fascinating to men either hoping to connect to the past, or by guys (like me) who look forward to solitude and an excuse to be sullen.

Band chosen at random off flickr, this one named “Flaming Tusk”. Photo by QXZ.

The beard is a kind of bank-robbing handkerchief of emotion.

There is also a great tradition amongst  males in which they go decidedly woodsy for awhile. Usually this happens during deer hunting season, when the boys at the tavern all enter a pact to see who has got the best chops at growing facial hair. And there’s another class of beard-o’s all together, those who grow for sport.

Recently, it has become a year-round fashion trend for hip bartenders and indie-cred bandmates. There aren’t too many official rock band photos in which all members are clean shaven. In fact, it’s looking a little like Little Feat out there (or insert your favorite 1965-1978 band in that sentence).

But there is a distinction between a long-lasting lifestyle choice and a seasonal whim. In the former, a man has decided to begin a college teaching tenure by growing a full Freudian symbol of respect. Alternatively, he has lost his girlfriend and job, and starts looking a lot more like Che Guevara or the Beatles right before falling out with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Somebody’s Dad. He looks so happy growing a beard. Photo by Smussolay via flickr.com

The latter scenario is closer to the situation I’m involved in. Working in a professional office, I noticed a few guys that let the shaving go for a week. Then I started to see it in GQ and Esquire magazine fashion ads — not the silky Hugo Boss or Burberry ads but definitely in ones ranging from Nautica and Macy’s all the way to a trend of deep stubble in Dolce & Gabbana.

In fact, the last issue of GQ (you know, the one with the controversial photos involving two women from Glee) contains a photo profile article titled “True Grit” that seems to be a lookbook of famous actors growing beards of different ilk.

Just to nail this point into the ground, the beard is being featured on just about every major cultural and societal front. The NASCAR “young guns” apparently don’t get sponsorship money from razors anymore, as Jimmie Johnson’s face can attest.

The desired end goal. Wish me luck. Photo by Fenchurch via flickr (CC Lic.)

Don’t even get me started on Joaquin Phoenix, Zach Galifinakis, or Al Gore after losing the election. It’s hard to tell if growing a beard means you’re losing it, you’ve grown adorable, or you’ve grown wise and stately. I’m hoping for a trifecta.

So I decided to buckle down and grow one myself. The longest I lasted was a one-week period during a summer vacation. I did not look like Grizzly Adams walking majestically out of the woods. It was a little more like Jon Voight stumbling out of the forest at the end of Deliverance. But I’m determined to make this work!

I do have my beard-keeping secrets, and I’d be curious to find out from other men if this is a shared thing. I use Paul Mitchell Tea Tree brand Hair and Skin Conditioner to keep my chin from itching. I use a No. 2 guard on my do-it-yourself Wahl haircutter to trim out the white hair sprouts. My razor is still cutting the neck hairs, lest I look like a savage.

Winter officially ends March 19. I’m hoping I can make it until then, and pray I don’t break down and give myself a goatee or even worse, give up and go Amish-style.

For now, I’m just hoping to get past the “recently marooned” look and make it to “Bon Iver” by the holidays.

Cover photo by Robert Thomson via flickr.com (CC).

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