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The culture of the bearded man

The anonymous Beards of Canberra blogger
The anonymous Beards of Canberra blogger

In the quiet political capital of Australia, the unshaven are rising again …

Beards have enjoyed varying popularity throughout the years but the recent hipster phenomenon has seen an increase in the growth of facial hair on both younger and older men. This has led to an emergence of a beard culture which is flourishing in Canberra.

Beards of Canberra is a Facebook page that documents the bearded men of our nation’s capital. Created in April 2014, the creator approaches bearded men throughout the city for a photo and a chat. These photos are then uploaded onto the page along with a catchy quote from their brief conversation. Reminiscent of the Humans of New York blog, the page has over 3000 likes and both an Instagram and Tumblr page.

The creator, who has asked to remain anonymous, says that he saw an opportunity and wanted to “do something different.”

The blogger believes that the beard trend is applicable to all ages but agrees that there has been an increase in younger men getting past the stubble stage.

“There is certainly a hipster part of it but … you’ve got older guys who’ve had beards for a long long time and they’re not going to shave them off anytime soon. And in the middle you’ve got guys who are growing it, not to be hipster, they are doing it just to try it out,” he said.

A bearded man in the Canberra CBD

The middle age group often gets forgotten in the beard discussion. The blogger belongs to this group and said that “growing up in the 90’s … there was an element of boy bands and being very clean shaven and perhaps this is a little bit of a reaction to that.”

Beards of Canberra aims to embrace men’s masculinity and their ability to grow a beard by taking away the stereotype that beards are gruff or just for old people. This is done by showcasing the many brilliant bristles of Canberra and showing that it is okay to take care of your beard and to use it as an expression of your own style.

Beards take a lot of care and dedication to maintain them to a high standard. This standard is also important when it comes to taking a beard into the corporate world.

While the blogger says that discrimination about having a beard is dependent on industry, it is still evident. This is particularly noticed during the “growing out stage”, which leaves a man’s facial hair lacking in finesse.

However, it is important that like hair styles, beard styles are kept tidy and not let to grow free (no matter how much they beg you).

“This is something that women in general face all the time, in terms of presentation, but as guys we’ve never really had to worry about it,” the blogger said.

While there is an element of fashion and self-expression in growing facial hair, there is also a correlation to climate. The blogger says that he has noticed more beards in the south east of Australia compared to the balmy beardless Brisbane.

While this blog is a Canberra venture, the various online platforms have received attention from people throughout Australia and a few followers from the United States. Similar pages have also popped up including Beards of San Francisco and Beards of Western Australia.

This shows that the trend can be encouraged through social media and the blogger believes that it is a trend that is here to stay.

“I think some guys will lose their beards and it will go out of fashion … but because of this current trend a lot of guys will like it and will decide, I’ll keep that! Maybe it’s part of my identity or I just like the way I look so I’ll keep it anyway,” he said.

He also points out that it can lead to a sense of comradery between men because “if two bearded guys pass on the street there is that little acknowledgement, that little glance, nice beard.”

Celebrating masculinity and style between men can only be seen as a good thing, as something as simple as a beard can create a bond.

Beards have appeared all throughout history, from the scruffy beard of Karl Marx to the moustachioed Che Guevara. They can signify masculinity, wisdom and social status. But also have associations with being homeless, lazy or dirty.

Facial hair can also be related back to older men, such as that beard that gently scratched your face when you went to give your grandfather a hug. But recently, many more young men are jumping on the bearded bandwagon.

Indie musician Chet Faker is known for his signature red beard and at only 26, he can be seen as ‘beardspiration’ for a younger generation.

When first hitting puberty, growing a beard can be a struggle for many teenagers but once they reach their early 20s their hormones are almost begging them for a facial hair fiesta.

Denholm Samaras is a University of Canberra student who has had a beard for the last year. He says he has shaved only a few times since graduating high school and now uses a beard trimmer to keep his facial hair short and nicely groomed.

“When I grow a beard out, there is normally about a two-week phase … where it gets quite itchy. That will normally last a fortnight and I go through purgatory for a while,” he said.

Denholm Samaras
Denholm Samaras

However, he recently travelled to India and noticed the difference between how cultures approach the facial hair debate.

“[In India] it’s kind of frowned upon if you grow a beard too young. It’s deeply attached to their spiritual history as a country. Over there a beard on a man is considered a badge of rank … the longer the beard you have, the more wisdom they consider you to have,” he said.

In contrast, Samaras agrees that in Canberra it’s seen as a “trendy thing to do at the moment” but there is also a masculinity element. A comment he has encountered often is “you’re not a man when you can grow a beard, you’re a man when you can keep it.”

So while this could be seen as a fashion trend, it is one that puts emphasis on masculinity. It is something that the Gen Y hipsters have created and something that Samaras believes will be highly influential.

“I dare say it will have an impact … we may very well leave a legacy of beards,” he said.

Steve Carbone is the resident barber at Groomed, a specialty barber that recently opened in Braddon. The aim of the business was to create a barber that was more traditional and gave men the opportunity to pamper themselves.

Commenting on the influx of bearded men in Canberra, Carbone says that “in the last year or so it’s really picked up.”

“It’s going to stay for a while just because … men are lazy and we don’t like to have a clean shave so we are always going to have a form of beard.”

Despite this element of laziness, these men are still coming in regularly for beard maintenance and beard products such as oils and conditioners. Carbone says that older men tend to come in more for regular beard maintenance trims while the younger men are more likely to use products and tend to their luscious locks at home.

Canberran, Hayden Beard, started up his own beard oil business, Beardy’s Beard Oil, in August 2014. The Canberra Calvary player said his surname was a factor in creating the new venture.

“My last names Beard, so I thought I’ve got to find some way to incorporate my surname into some kind of business,” he said.

Beard also has a beard. Once he began looking for ways to care for it, he saw that many commercial beard oils were quite expensive so he looked into creating his own.

“I sourced some oils and at first I was making it for myself and then my mates,” he said, but soon there was overflowing demand and Beardy’s Beard Oil was created.

The oil contains a mix of almond and jojoba oils to soothe the skin and nourish the beard, along with promoting beard growth.

Beard has travelled throughout the United States and said that on returning to Canberra he was surprised at how many bearded men there were and he notes the continuing growth in popularity.

He said that this “has never been seen in Canberra at this scale.”

While the evidence is clear that Canberra’s beard culture is continually growing, this is also an Australia-wide phenomenon.

Adelaide band, The Beards, record songs purely about facial hair and their popularity has spread beyond their niche market. Cracking Triple J’s Hottest 100 in 2011 with ‘You Should Consider Having Sex with a Bearded Man’, their songs have led to both Australia and worldwide tours.

The drummer in the band, John Beardman JR, said that society wasn’t quite ready for bearded men when they formed in 2005. However, after a few shows they began to notice that people were “desperate for pro-bearded music.”

Beardman says that having a beard results in “constant bliss and 100% euphoria, 24 hours a day.” This is exactly what The Beards want the population to experience with what he describes as their “propaganda style music.”

This pro-beard propaganda is directed at both men and women throughout Australia and they hope to spread this influence around the world.

While beards have been discriminated against in the past, the band notes that they have definitely seen an increase in bearded men. After 10 years and 4 albums the band can happily say through their constant propaganda that “we did that.”

Their influence could definitely be a reason for this sudden surge, but may also have an influence on the future of the beard. John Beardman Jr said that the band hasn’t “even begun to express how we feel about beards,” which will hopefully lead to more pro-beard propaganda and a facial hair trend that will never die.

Perhaps, like all fashion trends, the beard will eventually be shaven away. Nevertheless, the recent surge has led to new opportunities and a new way for men to express their own individual style.

Whether this surge is due to laziness or trying out a new fashion identity, consciously or not, it has definitely influenced many Canberrans.

But if beards suddenly become uncool it is important to note a crucial comment from John Beardman Jr that “beards are coolest when they are uncool.”

Written by Anja Kokkonen

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