One Thousand Beards: A Cultural History of Facial Hair
January 3, 2002 10:17 AM   Subscribe

One Thousand Beards: A Cultural History of Facial Hair "Historically, beards have been used to distinguish one group from its enemy. And evolutionists believe the beard gives more prominence to the jaw and teeth, all the better for baring those pearly whites in a fight. We won't even get into Freud's theory, which, of course, involves the nether regions of the body and shaving's being akin to castration (Freud had a beard). Then there's the ''gay beard.'' For more on that, you'll have to buy the book." ..... and I thought facial hair was just hair.
posted by LinemanBear (34 comments total)
Good first post, LinemanBear! If a bit depressing. I hope Portuguese politicos don't read the Boston newspapers. They just shaved off their moustaches a year ago. If they find out it's back in fashion, there goes our modern European image.

By the way, does anyone know what you call the area between the upper lip and the nose where, er, the moustache grows? And the little dimple in the middle? I thought it was Cupid's bow, but that's apparently the contour of the upper lip.

Some people grow a micro-moustache in that dimple alone. But what is it called? My reverse dictionary sucks...
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:52 AM on January 3, 2002

"Simply put, beards suggest power, dominance, and virility."

And I can't even grow a full beard....
posted by insomnyuk at 11:02 AM on January 3, 2002

I thouroughly approve of the book cover, yet I am fairly dissappointed that Allan Peterkin, the author of the book, (in at least the few photos I have found) doesn't even sport the most basic of moustaches...
posted by tpl1212 at 11:03 AM on January 3, 2002

The filtrum, Miguel.
I dig my own beard, `cept now I look like every loony that pops up on the American news since 9/11.
posted by dong_resin at 11:14 AM on January 3, 2002

How about half a beard?
posted by sudama at 11:17 AM on January 3, 2002

MiguelCardoso: That dimple is called the filtrum.

(yay!! My first MeFi post!)
posted by JonahBlack at 11:18 AM on January 3, 2002

i've had my 'soul patch' goatee for so long that my bottom lip looks and feels deformed if i shave it off. I'm stuck with it. Going on 13 years off and on. I'll probably need some sort of plastic surgery if i ever want to go without. Anyone else have that problem? *sigh*
posted by th3ph17 at 11:20 AM on January 3, 2002

You look like Garth Vader.
posted by dong_resin at 11:26 AM on January 3, 2002

Philtrum. It's called the "philtrum". (Or "filtrum", depending on the source). And strictly speaking, it's the centre region between nose and lip rather than the two ridges per se... 8)
posted by chrimble at 11:28 AM on January 3, 2002

Interesting...the same source defines philtrum as the area from below the nose to the upper lip, and the filtrum as the dimple or indentation under the nose directly above the upper lip. So the filtrum is part of the philtrum...

Though it does note that filtrum is a term from dentistry.

Not completely pertinant, but just an observation
posted by JonahBlack at 11:44 AM on January 3, 2002

I keep as much beard as I can without looking stupid. (I did a stint as wolf-boy for a while, when I just didn't care... it wasn't so great.) It's not for looks, though, it's just because I hate shaving and try to eliminate and avoid it as much as possible.

Unfortunately, I'm getting sick of the whole deal, now. I've only had it for two or three years, though, so it shouldn't be too hard to let go.

But, er, th3ph17, do you mean it looks deformed just to you, or is there seriously something wrong with it?
posted by whatnotever at 11:44 AM on January 3, 2002

Hey, thanks, guys!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:54 AM on January 3, 2002

please, either have a beard or be very clean shaven. that's all i ask...
posted by goneill at 11:58 AM on January 3, 2002

a few months ago while trimming it up a bit i made it too short and decided to just shave the whole thing off...but it is like that part of my underlip sticks out too far now. Like it was puffing out too much...too much tugging on the hair while i sit in front of my computer maybe? who knows.

i hate shaving also...but a good razor helps. I got a fancy cordless lotion-spewing piece of machinery that finally works for me. Sorry to turn this thread into a facial hair support group. ;-)
posted by th3ph17 at 12:43 PM on January 3, 2002

My facial hair morphs like the dunes of the Sahara... Full beard -- Full goatee -- Billy goat's gruff -- Fu-manchu -- Soul patch (which I also can't get rid of... it's my bare minimum) -- etc.
Luckily my girlie loves it.
posted by Jako at 12:46 PM on January 3, 2002

I think a goatee is necessary to ponder things. I don't have one of my own, I use my boyfriend's.
posted by dagnyscott at 1:47 PM on January 3, 2002

I have a goatee myself. I find that different styles of facial hair look better than others on different types of faces. There are guys who have facial hair because it is trendy, as opposed to guys who have facial hair because they find it suits their face.
posted by LinemanBear at 1:56 PM on January 3, 2002

I've had a beard since January '76. A bicentennial model, although most of the red and blue have turned gray. I shaved it off once just to see what the hell was under there. Not much. A long lost roach clip and what appeared to be a few pieces of Skylab.

Actually, I've always kept it fairly short. Long beards get itchy in hot weather, although they do provide insulation from the cold. I live in Miami, so I got an electric beard trimmer a few years ago, beats the hell out of scissors.

Shit. Elvis was alive when I first grew my beard.
posted by groundhog at 1:57 PM on January 3, 2002

A few years ago, I was sporting one of those moustache-less beards that can be seen in the lower left-hand corner of the aforementioned book cover, while trying to look like jazz-beat hipster (I was thinking "Manfred Mann," although most people thought "Amish" or "Abraham Lincoln"). Unfortunately, after having it for a year, I started noticing a lot of frat guys wearing their beards the same way. I just didn't feel cool having it anymore, and I now have anime/skinhead-girl-like hanks with pointy sideburns underneath.
posted by Eamon at 2:12 PM on January 3, 2002

(Innapropert post)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 2:14 PM on January 3, 2002

Sadly, although my beard grows quickly and full, I cannot grow a 'stash. And so: Amish Abe Lincoln. It's not a good look.

Still, I've always wondered if it would be like to just grow out a random one inch square of hair right below my jawline. Just grow it about an inch or so. How creepy would that be?

BTW: There's a Nicole Kidman joke floating around this thread, but I ain't got $60 million, so I ain't touching it.
posted by ColdChef at 2:25 PM on January 3, 2002

I have a very "Charlie Brown-ish" face without my goatee. It really thins out my face. Plus I can look really evil sometimes.
posted by schlaager at 2:44 PM on January 3, 2002

a question for the younger guys... anyone here learn how to shave from that simpsons episode where homer thinks he's going to die and tries to teach bart how to shave? at least three other guys i know had the same learning experience from the episode.
posted by lotsofno at 3:37 PM on January 3, 2002

I learned how to shave correctly from the NYT magazine last year. I've always wondered how guys that grew up without fathers learned how to do things like this. I remember the nice janitor at my synagogue teaching me how to tie a tie too.
posted by spork at 4:12 PM on January 3, 2002

I wish I could grow a beard. I was cursed to be born into a family where men aren't capable of growing beards until well after they're 30. Damn dirty genes.
posted by danec at 4:28 PM on January 3, 2002

I hate the soul-patch look. Yuck. Same with a full beard. Too dirty looking.

I've always liked clean shaven guys, or guys with a goatee. But not too bushy. It's a sexy, a little dangerous look. But, Uh-oh. I guess goatees are out now.

Do you all think that facial hair is unprofessional? Many "older" people (read: over 50) feel this way. I just don't know.
posted by aacheson at 4:44 PM on January 3, 2002

i used to work at goldman sachs. facial hair was a no-no until (now new jersey senator, then gs president) corzine grew one. I think it's safe to say that if it's ok at the ultra conservative goldman sachs, its ok almost anywhere...

but then again, I think that if I grew a beard people would talk...
posted by goneill at 4:51 PM on January 3, 2002

After sporting a bullhorns "Burt Reynolds" 'stache all summer, I think it would be excellent if it came back into fashion. But judging on the number of chicks I was pulling in then compared to now (clean-shaven), I really doubt it would happen.
posted by hellinskira at 4:54 PM on January 3, 2002

How is a goatee like a hemorroid?

Sooner or later every asshole has one.

just kidding guys, i used to have a goatee myself, I finally shaved it when igot sick of smelling the days food in my facial hair. Generally speaking, men, especially young men grow facial hair for the same reason chicks wear low cut blouses and wonderbras, because they can. It's a gender signifier. Women showing cleavage are saying "I'm a feminine woman" guys with beards are saying "I ooze musk." Or that's a theory. Oddly enough I get more flirtation action since I ditched the cookie duster. So, go figure.
posted by jonmc at 4:58 PM on January 3, 2002

I've never understood why supposedly civilized men start their days off by dragging a sharp piece of metal across their faces. I like my beard, especially during the cold Minnesota winters.

(Also stupid: Social norms that require women to shave their legs. But that's a different subject.)
posted by mrbula at 5:42 PM on January 3, 2002

I also don't understand how having facial hair could be 'unprofessional'. As long as it is trimmed in a neat way, there shouldn't be any problem. Personally, I think the 'comb-over' hairstyle is much more offensive. :)
posted by LinemanBear at 8:08 PM on January 3, 2002

I have a beard (goatee, VanDyke, whatever it's called these days) and have had either a moustache or beard since I was able to grow facial hair (13 or so, my family carries a gorilla-like hair gene).

It's not necessarily because I like the way I look with one, or don't like the way I look without one, although when I am shorn of all facial hair I do look about ten years younger. It's a matter of laziness. The more of my face that's covered with hair, the less I have to shave. I've had a full beard at times, but it begins to turn inward just under my jawline, and the itchiness and ingrown hairs aren't worth it, hence the goatee.

Let me take back a bit of the first sentence of the last paragraph. Two years ago I shaved my head completely bald, and I was most pleased by how intimidating I looked with a bald head and a goatee. I was most unpleased by the sunburn on my pate, however, and vowed never to do that again.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:49 PM on January 3, 2002

Speaking of beards and enemies, check out the beards on some of the fuzzheads on the Many Faces of GI Joe page. (watch out for that rub-pattern baldness syndrome look)
posted by bragadocchio at 11:08 PM on January 3, 2002

Displeased, not unpleased. Somehow vodka disrupts the grammar-check function in my head. I wonder why.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:18 PM on January 4, 2002

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