To Beard or Not to Beard

From The New Yorker:

The beard has been going in and out of fashion as long as men have been able to trim their whiskers. In 1938, The New Yorker published an article titled “American Hair: Its Rises and Falls,” a Depression-era trend piece by Lewis Gannett about the connections of the beard and the mustache to “the mysterious tides of our history.” Gannett remarks that the New World was discovered and settled almost entirely by men with whiskers…

But, by the eighteenth century, due in part to the influence of the Puritans, the beard was out and the wig was in. “Not one of the signers of the American Constitution wore a beard or even a mustache,” Gannett notes…

After its peak in the late nineteenth century, the American beard went into retreat, and remained so until the counterculture movements of the nineteen-sixties and seventies….

What’s your wisdom on the beard or not to beard question?

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://benjskramer.wordpress.com Ben

    I don’t think I would call it wisdom, but I’ve found my facial hair decisions have largely followed along with major life events. I grew sideburns when I went to highschool. I grew a goatee when my college girlfriend broke up with me (I later married her but kept the goatee). Then later when I was rejected for a pastoral position and shortly there after had my second son I grew a full beard.

    If I were to psychoanalyze myself I’d say that it is an attempt to change my appearance to help cope with challenging changes in my life, but in all honest I think there’s a pretty clear link to having less free time in life and finding a socially acceptable way to waste less time shaving. At this point with two kids, a full time pastoral position, and many other activities having a full beard allows me to shave but once a week to keep myself looking acceptable to greater society. ;-)

  • http://www.travismamone.net Travis Mamone

    I always thought all the kids nowadays grow facial hair to be ironic. Let’s face it, unless you’re either Burt Reynolds or David Crosby, mustaches are cheesy.

    Beards are cool, though. Too bad I can’t grow one, so I’m just stuck with a goatee.

  • http://zetountes.blogspot.com Marcus

    My choice is easy. My wife said absolutely N-O on a beard, so for me there is no beard, even though I want one.

  • David Himes

    I’ve been wearing a beard since Sep 1981 … would not be without it. And now, it allows me to impersonate Santa Claus … which is a special gift, in itself.

  • Adam

    I’ve had a goatee for the last 5 years and I’m considering going full beard for the winter.

  • Joe Canner

    Ben #1: I tend to agree with you about the time factor. The fashion these days, however, seems to be closely trimmed facial hair (mostly goatees) which takes just as much (or more) time to maintain.

    I used to change my facial hair a lot, sometimes for practical reasons (e.g., warmth in the winter) but usually just because I was bored or because I liked the attention of having people notice the change. Lately, the more gray there is in the facial hair, the less interested I am in it. Maybe when I am old enough to be an “old graybeard” I will let it grow more.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I have had a mustache since I was able to grow one (several decades ago), but it has had a goatee for the past few years. The ladies tell me I look better with it!

  • DRL

    I’ve always found it interesting that in 2 Samuel 10/1 Chronicles 19 some of David’s men were humiliated by an enemy who shaved off half their beards. Rather than telling them to shave off the other half, David sends them into hiding at Jericho until and in order for the other half to grow in.

    Seems to me that real men grow beards ;-) And I’ve never understood why anyone would want it any other way. I’ve had a beard since I was 17. But now as I approach age 52 I find that the grayer my beard gets, the trimmer I want it to be, and I even shave the grayest parts off from time to time, leaving a pepper gray gotee.

    I suppose the time will come when I can accept my gray hairs–whether I want to or not. At that point I will probably prefer the full beard again to the jowls it will cover.

  • http://davidbrush.com David Brush

    I have experienced quite a few stages in facial hair.

    Shaved,
    Goatee,
    Full Beard,
    Almost Biker/Taliban Beard,
    The old-west mustache with a soul-patch.

    I have not yet attempted the Isaac Asimov sideburns.

    I am currently shaved, every day, for the last three weeks. This change is somewhat brought on by an internal change.

    My wife doesn’t really care what I do with my face as long as I take a shower.

  • Dan

    LOL. This is about par for the New Yorker.

    I have had a beard for about 25 years. Grew it when I was living on the Oregon coast and didn’t really care. It seems a lot of guys at the coast had beards. At Bible college me and three other guys always sat in the back row and, as older students, the instructor referred to us as ‘the Elders.’ Didn’t really help my grades any though.

    My wife says she likes the beard since it is smooth as compared to the ‘sandpaper cheek.’ As I am getting older the beard helps mask the threatening double-chin.

    We should approach this from a biblical perspective. How many of you think Adam was created with a beard? Most all the paintings show him clean-shaven (at least before the Fall).

  • http://www.pedalion.co.uk Wyn

    Have always been intrigued with the title of this book written in 1860 !
    “Shaving, a breach of the Sabbath and a hindrance to the spread of the Gospel.”

  • Joe Canner

    If the artists are correct, beards started to become fashionable sometime between Enoch and Noah… ;)

  • Fred

    I’m sorry but all these goatee’s and soul-patches make me think of Anton LaVey.

    I’m just sayin’.

  • http://rossbanister.blogspot.com Ross B

    I get a rash when I shave, seminary (DTS used to have a dress code) was the only time I haven’t had one and I’m 67 years old.

  • Dan

    Fred @13, Ha!

    I remember a couple guys at TEDS having a conversation by the mailboxes. One had shaved so that he had a sharp little goatee. He asks his buddy what he thinks, to which his friend soberly replied, “You look like Satan.”

  • http://brandontheguy.tumblr.com brandontheguy

    I began shaving when I was 12, because I had a mustache. I kept that thing at bay for while, but I let my sideburns get pretty low for a 12 year old. I tried the goatee, just the beard, no mustache when I was 15. I attached a mustache to it shortly after I graduated.

    I was clean shaven once during my freshman year, because I was part of a ministry team and we were going to an old fashioned baptist church.

    After that, I let my full beard grow in, and my face hasn’t been seen by anyone since. That has been seven years ago, shortly before I met my wife, who has never actually seen my face.

    For the past seven years, I’ve let my beard grow untamed for usually 2 months at a time (two months for my beard is pretty impressive, I must say), before I trim it back to fairly short. Its one of those things that has kinda become part of who I am. I may get to a point that I’m keeping it trimmed pretty short, but I doubt if I will ever go without a beard.

  • http://brandontheguy.tumblr.com brandontheguy

    And I thought that this quote from St. Clement was fitting.

    “How womanly it is for one who is a man to comb himself and shave himself with a razor, for the sake of fine effect, and to arrange his hair at the mirror, shave his cheeks, pluck hairs out of them, and smooth them!… For God wished women to be smooth and to rejoice in their locks alone growing spontaneously, as a horse in his mane. But He 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.”
    -St. Clement of Alexandria

  • zman

    Is this a trick question for the interpretive pluralists out there?

  • http://www.fivedills.com Watchman

    As one who sports a beard, I find having a beard has three major benefits: 1) Less facial surface to shave; 2) Hides the double-chin; 3) Makes me look smarter than I really am.

  • joseph lang

    I am glad facial hair is more acceptable these days, because I hate shaving. Basically, I use a beard trimmer (minus the length adjustment attachment to get it as close as possible)once a week and that is it. Probably still too “womanly” for St. Clement of Alexandria though.

  • Robert

    I haven’t used a razor in 36 years, and I’m definitely not going back to one!

  • Rick

    Ross @14, I was a student at DTS in the late 70s. As owner operator of a poolmservice, I was outside all the time. After a basal cell tumor was cut off my face (actually, my nose), I asked for, received and used a doctor’s prescription to (re)grow my beard which I’ve kept since then.

  • http://www.missbible.blogspot.com Miss Bible

    I don’t have one.
    :D

  • Rick

    Ross @14, I was a student at DTS in the late 70s. As owner operator of a pool service, I was outside all the time. After a basal cell tumor was cut off my face (actually, my nose), I asked for, received and used a doctor’s prescription to (re)grow my beard which I’ve kept since then.

  • Matt Edwards

    My wife made that decision for me–no beard.

  • Taylor

    Ross #14,

    That’s my dad’s story, but he was there when the rules changed (early 80′s?), and the beard has been there ever since.

    Personally, I keep a short beard, with hair to match. My only beef with other beardies under 30 is the tendency to think Grizzly Adams is the penultimate example of the beard. Neck fuzz and upper cheek brush have significantly damaged the beard in societal estimation.

    I think anyone who decides to grow a beard should be required to take Grooming 101.

  • Clint W

    Everyone looks better in a beard–especially men.

  • http://briercrest.ca/college/prospective/academics/faculty/facultyprofile.asp?facultyName=Charles%20Hackney&facultyId=132 Charles

    “He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man”
    Much Ado About Nothing, Act 2, scene 1

    (Sporting a beard for 18 years now)

  • phil_style

    I alternate between the beard and clean shaven on a fornightly rotation. It works really nicely.

  • MatthewS

    I’ll just say that I look worse without my goatee, LOL Actually, I fancy that it adds some intellectual flair to the appearance.

    I grew up in a religious system which considered beards to be a sign of rebellion, and which considered rebellion to be the worst thing ever.

  • Phillip

    I grow a beard starting in November every year and keep it through the winter, partly for warmth (I started doing it when I lived in upstate NY) and partly so I don’t have to shave. People say it makes me look 10 years older, which was good when I was an undergrad trying to look older to attract a good looking grad student at church. Not so good now that I am in my 40s. But my wife likes it fine, and hers is the only opinion that really matters now.

    Since I am/was a red head, my beard isn’t salt-and-pepper. It’s salt-and-paprika.

  • Laura K

    Hmm – I wonder if a day will come when women will have as many acceptable choices with regards to leg hair as men do now with facial hair….

  • CJ Pankey

    I have some sort of facial hair since the day after I graduated high school (we weren’t allowed to have any). I had a goatee till I got married and then grew it to a closely trimmed beard during our honeymoon and the wife loves it. Beard it up!

  • http://chezman86.blogspot.com Kevin Chez

    5 o’clock shadow 24/7

  • Jeff L

    Didn’t David allow some of his men to go into seclusion to regrow their beards after they were forcibly shaven by enemies? or maybe partly shaven?

  • JD

    i started growing a beard when i was in seminary. partly, because i was too lazy to shave. partly, because it was the only way my wife would let me wear a mustache. having grown it and kept it since 2007, i will probably, never, ever get rid of it. even in the 100+ degree heat of kansas.


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