Bringing the beard back, Winter Quarter-style

    Winter Quarter is a time of growth. The intellectual and emotional kind, of course, but another as well: growth of the facial variety. I’m talking about the Winter Quarter beard.

    The author with his new stubble.

    Winter Quarter is the ideal time to shelve your razor and shaving cream. Why? Because growing a beard is the natural thing to do as the thermometer bottoms out. For starters, winter is cold and beards are naturally warm and insulating. Grown properly, they also can make you look erudite and professorial, perhaps enough to convince your American History TA that you know more about the domestic policies of James A. Garfield than you actually do.

    And yet these days, most are quick to disassociate the beard from knowledge, power and sexual virility. Instead, most people in our culture assume that beards are grungy and sketchy; they are the choice facial adornment of terrorists, drifters and other unsavory individuals you would not like to run into walking down Sheridan late at night.

    Facial hair has been on the outs since William Howard Taft’s bathtub-defying ass left the White House in 1913. Since then, valiant efforts have been launched to salvage the beard (and the moustache-wax industry to boot), but recent history’s bewhiskered beard-backers have been peculiar at best, villainous at worst.

    Will no one step forward and champion the beard in the modern era? Whereas men of great esteem such as Garibaldi and Franz Josef proudly wore whiskers in the past, the only notable world leader of present to sport a beard is the ever-popular Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (Al Gore doesn’t count because he failed to stick with it — probably had something to do with global warming.)

    We have come to live in the Age of Scruff, neither embracing the beard nor shunning it. This trend points to lazy and vacillating qualities in the modern man. We are too lazy to shave daily, yet we are not committed enough to go, or rather grow, the whole nine yards.

    That is where my personal journey comes in. Inspired by a recent article in Vanity Fair, and tired of wavering along the line of clean-shaven and slightly scruffy, I’ve decided to take the plunge and abstain from shaving until the end of Winter Quarter to gauge the social consequences. Will I be perceived differently? Will I feel obliged to start wearing more flannel as my inner lumberjack emerges externally for the first time?

    In this space I will not only document the state of my beard and its effect it has on me and others, but I will also highlight other people on campus who buck the trend toward baby-bottom cheeks in a Beard of the Week feature.

    While only a week into my amateur attempts at pogonology (the study of beards), I am ready to live up to the old Greek saying: “There are two kinds of people in this world that go around beardless — boys and women — and I am neither one.”


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