On Beards and Their Circumstances

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A recent New Yorker article on Strike Beards suggests a broad spectrum of circumstantial beardification -- the article is primarily about beards grown in response to the writers' strike, but it also touches on thesis beards, neck beards, Wimbledon beards (Bjorn Borg, anyone?), and the unforgettable Unabomber beard (I shall call this facial adornment a "lone gunman beard"). During the writers' strike, Conan O'Brien and David Letterman are growing strike beards -- and the trend extends to writers on the picket lines:

The strikers themselves were looking a little hairy on the picket lines in midtown. Colin Jost, a writer for "Saturday Night Live," estimated that ninety per cent of his friends were now barbati.

All this beard talk reminds me of the "Holiday Neck Beard" (warning: a little coarse language), an annual celebration of neck-only beards. If you want to participate next year, just begin growing your neck beard at Thanksgiving. Be sure to document its progress with photos, which you can share with your horrified family at the holidays. After growing a luxurious one-month neck beard, shave it off at Christmas (or whatever date you feel is most impactful) as a gift to your mother. Thus far I've been too pusillanimous to attempt a holiday neck beard, but I must say it's tempting.

There's also the "thesis beard," which is just what it sounds like -- the gentleman in question grows a beard while writing his college thesis. Then there's the age-old question -- to shave the beard prior to thesis defense, or after? Only you can decide. (For what it's worth, a search for "thesis beard" on Flickr turns up only fourteen beards! Let's get those beards on, academics!!)

I'm considering growing a "book beard" this year -- the idea is that I'll start growing the beard when I start writing the book, and only shave it when the first draft is complete. But I'm worried that this will stray dangerously close to the aforementioned "lone gunman beard" (based on previous personal beard experience), and in the event of failure to finish a first draft, may render me permanently bearded. So...maybe not.

So here's the inevitable question: have you ever grown a beard for some special circumstance? I'm particularly interested in social bearding, where men grow beards together (ahem, in solidarity -- anybody grow a "nuclear submarine beard" or a "playoff beard?"). Also, ladies: what's your take on this business?

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January 2, 2008 - 5:01am
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