April 6, 2018

Beyond The Beards

‘Hipster’ has been one of the prevailing subcultures of modern times, described by Jack Kerouac in the 1940s as “characters of a special spirituality.”

The anti-mainstream sentimentality of the hipster has meant that Byron Bay, and everything this region represents in the counter-cultural, has been a popular gathering space for those who want to be anything other than basic.

A hipster is a free-spirited, open-minded, environmentally and socially progressive person, who is concerned with fashion and the sense of belonging it brings, outside of the mainstream. For all intents and purposes, hipsters are a happy, fun-loving, full-life-leading, bunch who are connected to the community in an enriching way. But, we need to talk about the beards. Yes, the beards.

We love a good crop of man-hair on a chin, but there are reasons stepped in cultural and evolutionary significance that speak volumes about the gents taking their grooming tips from Vikings. In pre-Victorian times, the appearance of a beard outside an obvious religious affiliation was a statement of radicalism, pompous intellectualism or a declaration about being an artist – basically, everything that could be considered counter-cultural. And also, Santa and Gandolf.

A beard, in British Victorian society, was a sign of either extreme uncouth and savagery or worse, liberal sensibilities. Lumberjack chic was not yet a thing.

It wasn’t until the ‘heroes’ of the Crimean War began returning to England, sporting the beards and a very manly attachment to the hair that prevented their faces from, quite literally, freezing off while they were becoming war heroes. *Audible manly-grunt here*.

Some anthropologists connect the post-Crimea beard craze to a need for men to assert masculinity in the face of the suffragette movement. Those same anthropologists believe that the peak beard trend of the 21st century could be a subconscious resistance to a global feminist movement that is beginning to gain some very serious traction.

And yet, if a protest was the point, research from some evolutionary biologists at the University of Queensland, shows that these bearded fellas might actually be doing everyone a favour. In a sample of over 8,000 responses, it seems the ladies much prefer the beards for overall attractiveness and for the prospect of a fling. In fact, when asked to rate men on the prospect of a long-term partnership, the study found that the more facial hair – the better. The study found that both sexes found men with beards to be older, and more masculine.

So, when it comes to the beard, there could be any number of conscious and subconscious cultural factors at play. The facial hair could be anything from a display of hyper-masculinity (think Hemsworth), a signifier of more gentle and artistic sensibilities (think Orlando Bloom), or a play to increase sexual attractiveness (think Hemsworth).

To beard, or not to beard? That is the question.