The trials of No-Shave November

By on October 26, 2011

By Lee Cole–

The time is upon us once more. The air has grown colder, the trees have changed and the days of smoothly shaven faces are quickly fading. It’s a time we’ve all come to know well, a time when mere boys cast aside their razors, throw away their shaving cream and become men – men with beards. I’m of course referring to the now infamous tradition known as “No-Shave November.”

Each year in November, men who shave on a regular basis put down their razors in solidarity with others across the country and let their beards grow, often to the chagrin of girlfriends, mothers and wives everywhere. It’s a way not just to be lazy but to test your beard’s worth against those of your fellow man. By Nov. 30, those unfamiliar with the tradition would think, given the sheer number of scraggly facial manes on campus, that U of L had been overrun by lumberjacks and sages. Who could take issue with such a glorious extravaganza of manliness and testosterone? As it turns out, there are quite a few who disapprove of the whole affair.

These “anti-beardists” raise a number of objections to No-Shave November. They ignore the long history of bearded men who have changed the world, forgetting also that Yahweh himself encourages beard growth, punishing Samson when Delilah, perhaps the first anti-beardist, shorn his facial hair. They gaze with condescension at bearded passers-by, certain that the only way to go is clean-shaven. As mentioned earlier, these dissenters tend to be girlfriends and mothers whose complaints can usually be boiled down to three types: concerns about hygiene, disapproval of the beard’s look aesthetically and concerns about the beard’s texture and level of scruffiness.

Beard hygiene can be a real problem for those who are unfamiliar with beard care. Moustaches tend to catch a lot of crumbs and pieces of food, requiring some clean-up after meals. As long as the beard grower is conscientious about after-meal face washing, the beard hygiene problem can be kept under control and these complaints can be avoided.

The rise of hipsters has led to “ironic” facial hair styles – growing beards or moustaches that were typical in the 1800s or at the turn of the century. Mutton chops and handlebar moustaches have become more common in recent years, and the classic response when questioned about them – “you just don’t get it” – isn’t enough for some non-beard growers. The fact of the matter is that we should be able to grow whatever beard we please, whether it’s a wooly walrus moustache a la Friedrich Nietzsche or a full-on Matisyahu. If we want to look like turn of the century philosophers and old west miners, we should be able to do so without scornful looks from those in the non-beard growing community.

Finally, the issue of scruffiness must be addressed. Women dating men with beards often complain of “beard-burn” — that raw, irritated feeling on the face after a make-out session with a particularly scruffy fellow. Of all the complaints about No-Shave November, this is perhaps the most serious, as it can result in relationship problems. The only real solution is to ensure that your beard is so overwhelmingly manly and appealing that concerns about scruffiness melt away in the face of raw bearded passion and virility.

As you can see, anti-beardists have no basis for their complaints if the No-Shave November participant is diligent about beard maintenance. The real issue here may be jealousy – who doesn’t want to be able let nature run its course and grow a bodacious beard without consequence? No-Shave November is not just a way to express your manliness; it’s a way to stick it to a society that increasingly disapproves of and disparages facial hair. Perhaps St. Clement of Alexandria put it best when he wrote that our creator “adorned man like the lions, with a beard and endowed him as an attribute of manhood, with a hairy chest—a sign of strength and rule.” There you have it men – God wants you to grow a beard this November, so you can be like a lion.

opinion@louisville.com
Photo: Flikr/cameronperkins

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