To Beard Or Not To Beard

The job search is on the horizon. I see it, the light at the end of the tunnel, approaching ever-so quickly. The mid-career retirement, sabbatical…whatever I have called it, is nearing an end and the reality of working again is almost here. The sweats I so conveniently wear on an almost daily basis will soon find their way from full-time to part-time wear status. It is a welcomed, bittersweet situation. One that requires a shift in mentality and preparedness on many levels, the most important of which is whether to maintain a beard or go clean shaven.

To beard or not to beard is an ongoing internal struggle with many pros and cons on each side. Do I want to try to appear more sophisticated and mature, or wear the baby face and have a freshness and innocence to my look? With the beard, which I might add, is Keanu Reeves-esque in that it isn’t the most prolific or full beard around, I look more my age and experience. Without it, I shed five or six years, and have a naive, new to the world face.

It’s been about five years now that I have had some level of beardage and it seems in that time growing a beard has become the cultural norm for men. I like to think that this is because of me, the trendy guy I am, but I doubt that. Whether you go full lumbersexual, or stick with the permanent five o’clock shadow, every guy I see now has some hairy shade sprouting from their face. For the most part I have been no exception.

If you Google “beard styles” you will find there is an even more vast array of beards than you would have thought to categorize. This only complicates matters. Do I want to go retro and do an early ’90’s boy band, fine line around the jawline style? If you answered yes, you’re thoughts on this matter are immediately irrelevant. However, it does beg the question, how long, how much grooming and how does the beard work with the haircut. That’s another question on the docket, but one that is too much to tackle in this ramble. And really, with my hair longer on top now, it’s likely to get chopped next time I go to a barber.

I know people that have had beards for decades on end, and I understand why. It’s easy to have it become a part of who you are. It helps your skin (either cause it hides it or because it keeps it clearer), and it’s like a mask, one that you can wear to symbolize a different side of yourself, a change in who you have become, or just a facade to pretend any of those things are real. And it does change how you look. When I first tried growing it out, mostly as a dare to myself, I was just tired of feeling young. As silly as that sounds, professionally, sometimes believing is being, and in a way, it has worked. I have become wiser, smarter and more confident professionally than I was around 2010. Now is that because of the beard? I dunno, maybe. It might also be because of those around me, finding love, getting a better job. But maybe the beard was the cause for those things? Maybe the beard has been the wingman I needed all these years.

Wow, I’m really starting to re-think the value of the beard. It may be my force, my Yoda, not just something around me, but the driving factor in my life. Maybe I should just ask the beard directly, “Beard, what say thee? Stay or go?” I mean, would Brian Wilson have been an even average closer without the beard (though being partially insane probably helped, too)? Would Zach Galifanakis be funny without his mane? I mean look at the guy without it, he’s just not as funny. And do you remember Ben Affleck sans beard? Yeah, he was good in Good Will Hunting, but what Gigli? The beard made him a great director, a serious actor. Dare I say, it made him the man he is. The list goes on: Jake Gyllenhaal, Hugh Jackman, Adam Levine, Christian Bale, either Hemsworth (since I can’t remember which is which anyway). Bearded equals legit, serious, successful. It’s hard to find an example of a bearded fellow that didn’t benefit from his hairy face.

I guess the answer is obvious, keep the beard. Well, at least until tomorrow morning when I step out of the shower and look at my razor again.

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