Melbourne’s Fascination with Facial Hair

Caught out again. This poor student, innocently studying away has to awkwardly ignore my unpreventable gaze. He can’t be surprised though, surely? He must anticipate this reaction after months of tireless work, constant conditioning as well as devoting generous time. All for the upkeep of man’s pride and joy, the most fashionable statement which can be attached to a man, nothing more glorious than the natural beauty of a thick beard, wrapped around pretty much any face of the male species.

Now I could be biased as I have always enjoyed a bit of facial hair, but there is nothing disputing the fact that facial hair is on its way back and in monumental measures. Forget about dainty stubble, the boys are going hard or going home, with the full bushman beard around every corner on the streets of Melbourne. In recent years the beard has been introduced into the alternative scene. At first I wasn’t sure what to think; this growth (figuratively and literally) automatically aged the individual, yet I found myself looking for longer at the person that walked past with the beard, as opposed to the one who was lacking.

On the subject of lacking, is it socially unjust to have a culture that admires the beard on a man? What about the poor lad who, try and try as he will, can’t even grow some stubble without looking as sketchy as the postman who stole all the love letters? Growing a beard could be seen as a form of art, some people can sculpt, some people can’t.

I hate to be one of ‘those people’, but I liked beards before they were cool. Not being of the hipster variety this is quite painful to admit, but alas it’s true. Before it was justified within society as a trend, I had to find out why I had this uncontrollable fascination for facial hair.

I came to the conclusion that predominately my reason is: a beard sharpens the focus on someone’s eyes.  A beard works as a shield from pretty much the nose down. If you can grow a beard and you have nice eyes, you are in luck. I have heard the change in colour on a beard can be a deterrent for the ladies, but I couldn’t disagree more, I think the colour tells a story. Someone in his family must be red headed or dark for that patch to be there. Does that not entice you to find out the family tree? I don’t actually suggest that as an early topic of conversation, but certainly one to keep at the back of your mind.

When it comes to beards there will simply always be the debate as to whether they are a symbol of manliness, or whether it comes down to sheer laziness. In my fascination for beards I have acquired the skill of deciphering between the two. The manly beard status is acquired when the beard is thick and well sculpted. The beard is managed well and there is no doubt that time has been spent in conditioning this facial hair. A lazy beard is patchy, the hair looks dead and to be honest it’s frightening to get too close for fear of what odour this beard will bring forth. Like any fashion statement, there is top of the chain, and there is the cheap alternative. Most men who enter the friend-made competition of ‘who can grow the best beard’ fall into the category of the cheap alternative.

If history is anything to go off, the bearded trend will unfortunately phase out and may not be back for another 50 years. Of course there will be the die hard growers that will defy this popularity scheme and stay loyal to their facial hair, but predominantly beards will become extinct in majority of the population. These attractive crew of well bearded men will need jobs they have to shape up for, wives they have to please and children they’d rather not have pulling their beards. I don’t want to see the day but as a realist, it must be acknowledged that they won’t be cool forever.  But they will be to me, so you will catch me in future hanging out at the local bikers bar. My final note sings with confidence – look how much better John Lennon looks sporting that beard!

Written by Maree Rodoni

Illustrator: Veronica Mellere


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