Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Here’s the thing about facial hair on men. Today’s image of a sexy alpha male often includes the scruff beard; in fact, some of our heroes keep a constant two or three days' beard growth. It makes them look manly, rugged, and sexy.

But the reality is those babies hurt like heck if they’re rubbed against the sensitive female skin. So where’s the fantasy come from and how does it transcend the reality?

It's clear to me that bodily hair serves an evolutionary purpose – to keep the species warm in frigid climates. I imagine our primordial ancestors possessed lots and lots of the stuff in rather unbecoming places.

Now, of course, we no longer need facial or body hair for protection from the elements. Still, regularly as clockwork, men go in and out of facial hair fashion. In fact, facial hair seems to be the only fashion variable that men consistently alter, change, or invent.

I admit my fantasy man has a full beard and mustache. When my husband taught in a private college, he was not permitted to wear a beard, and moustaches were seriously frowned upon. The moment he no longer worked for them, I begged him to grow a beard. I suppose the idea of the beard was forbidden fruit. Sure, it’s a nuisance for a man to keep up, grooming-wise, but ooh-la-la, I love a bearded man. Of course, being a dutiful wife, I argued for the beard as protection from the sun’s rays. Yeah, right!

The wearing of beards was rare in the western world during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, but became fashionable by the mid-nineteenth century when many civil war heroes and officers sported them. Before Lincoln, no U.S. president wore a beard, but until McKinley, nearly every one had a beard or moustache. After World War I, beards fell out of fashion again and were virtually nonexistent until the sixties and the hippie movement. From the 1990’s on beards have continued to be in fashion, with various modifications. Even the corporate western world has accepted the look.

Actors, music stars, and athletes alike wear some form of beard and/or moustache. The new millennium certainly seems to be the heyday of facial hair for men.

AND YET, the great heroes of romantic fiction seem to be beardless – moustache-less – facial-hair-less. What’s that about? What can account for that discrepancy?

So here’s the question. Which do you prefer – clean-shaven men or bearded ones? What kind? Why? Are your fantasy men different from real-life ones? Why?
I'm giving away another Pirates of the Caribbean tee-shirt to a lucky commenter -- this one of Jack Sparrow in all his scruffiness. If you'd like to comment, but aren't interested in Jack's shirt, let me know and I'll take your name out of the hat. Banditas are eligible!!!


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