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Essay

Essay: The Bearded Man

by Margo Fortuny on 10 September 2010

Writer and artist Margo Fortuny considers the allure of facial hair.

Writer and artist Margo Fortuny considers the allure of facial hair.

I know a Central Saint Martins student who carries a tote stating the words 'Beards are sexy.' Wear your heart on your bag, not your sleeve. One evening I informed her a sophisticated bearded man would be joining us for our usual Thursday night cocktails.

'I’ll be over at nine-thirty. Who is it?'

'My dad.'

He is a distinguished dandy (and former fashion designer) who can spend hours hunting for the right Panama straw hat. My father wears linen suits to the beach, spends more on his shoes than food and has kept a trimmed beard since I was born. (‘It hides my jowls,’ he jokes.) For this reason, I find beards elegant but have absolutely no desire to date a furry fellow.

‘I only like hairy men. They’re closer to animals,’ a young woman explained at the DKNY party last night.

Many of my friends disagree and seek out whiskers. ‘I only like hairy men. They’re closer to animals,’ a young woman explained at the DKNY party last night. Animals? Bears? Creatures of the night?

After Zeus, Socrates, Jesus, Leonardo da Vinci, and a herd of musicians in the seventies, the bushy face is back in fashion. The style, recently heralded by musicians like Fleet Foxes, Kings of Leon, and Sebastian Tellier, has been gaining momentum for a few years.

On the runway, Vivienne Westwood’s winter menswear collection featured shaggy characters clad in kilts and baggy trousers. The inspiration, according to the press release? Vagrants. Spectacle-sporting unshaven men marched down Giorgio Armani’s catwalk in knitted pea coats, velvet trousers, and berets. Last spring’s Kenzo campaign and this winter’s French Connection adverts celebrate the carpeted countenance.

Most designers, such as Viktor & Rolf, still send fresh-faced schoolboys down the catwalk (however those two often neglect the razor themselves.) Smooth cheeks symbolise youth, cleanliness, and ambiguity. The contrast is apparent. Beards symbolise age, wisdom, and masculinity. They are simultaneously classic and counterculture. They offer protection and warmth. Or one could argue the fur hides the face and is a convenient spot to lose bits of your breakfast.

The fashion industry is not yet willing to give up its love affair with youth. Rather it is now highlighting the difference between masculine and feminine. This season womenswear is filled with dresses, long skirts, and belted coats. In menswear, you can pick between dressing like the history student... or the professor.

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