Take a walk down Melbourne’s Brunswick Street or through Bondi in Sydney and you’ll find yourself amidst a stream of trendy, indie types. Hipsters flood the second hand book stores and grass carpeted organic cafés and bars, dressed in leather shoes, tightly fitted jeans and a shirt buttoned all the way up. The latest addition to the hipster-esque ensemble is, however, the most intriguing. Beards.
They’re everywhere, bigger and bushier than ever. Beautiful men, in beautiful clothes, who often play beautiful music, will almost definitely sport a large sum of facial hair growing downwards from their chin. Boys in bands with beards are taking over the streets and the music industry right before our eyes. Don’t believe me? Check your iTunes. Matt Corby, Angus Stone, Bon Iver, Damien Rice, Josh Pyke, Dallas Green of City and Colour, one of the boys from Architecture in Helsinki has a crazy beard, it’s rare that all five of Passion Pit are cleanly shaven, one half of the Black Keys sports a massive beard, the list goes on. Basically, it seems, if you’d like to be trendy, or successful in the realm of the alternative or folk music scene, grow a beard and you’re set for stardom.
But where has this phenomenon come from that is filling our cities with facial hair to the brim?
Move over Movember. Beginning in Melbourne in the early 2000s and making a mark right across the world, Movemeber has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for prostate cancer research and men’s depression charities. Through the growth of millions of moustaches in support of the movement, moustaches began to trend in the music scene and on the streets, perhaps a humble beginning to the uprising of hipsters with facial hair. But fads do die, and so whilst many will still line their upper lip this November, currently beards take reign all year round.
Perhaps it’s an ode to ancient leaders. The most respected ancient Egyptians had great beards, often with gold strips plaited into them. Some even attached fake beards to gain hierarchy (who knew hair extensions existed back then!). In ancient India having a beard meant having wisdom and dignity, men with no beards in ancient Gaelic times were said to be dishonourable, and Spartans in ancient Greece partly shaved a man’s beard if he was a coward.
Maybe growing a beard is a religious thing, to do with inner peace and pleasant souls or whatever mumble jumble those hipsters will tell you. Jesus and almost all of his disciples had beards, so perhaps growing a beard would help inspire these trendy city kids to be good willed and humble, performing some kind of miracle upon their music. Your guess is as good as mine.
Oh what about pirates! Maybe the hipsters are making a statement like the peg-legged notorious sea captains. As well as the typical eye patch, parrot on shoulder, boat with skull flag, treasure map, and hoop earring, pirates almost always had beards. Cue Captain Redbeard and Blackbeard. Whilst the music playing boys might take over stages and festival line ups rather than the deep dark sea, perhaps the beard thing is about being different, making your own rules, and defying the straight-laced. Notorious leaders like Ned Kelly and bandana wearing bikies also fit this bill perfectly. They break the rules, make their own statements, and of course, have beards of lengths that are out of control. To further validate this, the upper-class are always cleanly shaven. Never do you see a man in a business suit at a corporate function with a beard. Oh the horror. Recently, an article was published reiterating this exact point, it stated that policemen are to be clean shaven, to maintain their power and class, and because “you can’t trust men with beards.” So whether it’s peg-legged or Harley Davidson inspired, notoriety and stepping outside the norm is also a beard influencing possibility.
There’s also the chance that, on the flip side, these boys in bands with beards want to be leaders of the great kind, rather than the rebellious kind – that or they’re just massive fantasy book nerds. Just look at Gandalf and Dumbledore; two of the greatest leaders to ever grace our bookshelves and cinemas, who lead their followers to victory and greatness. Perhaps these musos want to lead their fans into melodic victory and harmonious greatness, and find themselves fame along the way.
Maybe they’re just going for the rugged, just-got-out-of-bed look that rock n roll kings don because “the chicks dig it”, and because being carefree and a free spirit is like totally the best way to live man.
Maybe it’s simply because they’re struggling musicians and hipsters who can’t afford to buy a razor. Or maybe they’re just being lazy.
Whatever the reason is, it’s happened, and it’s a thing. Beards have taken that much flight there’s even an international beard community online who run the World Beard Championships and are currently mourning the loss of a dearly beloved heavily bearded man. For real. Another site, Beard.org, will help you grow a beard, let you show it off, teach you different styles, and even allow you to share your beard success story.
[information_box]NOTE: Quite independently from this article the founders of Freerange Press make a controversial claim to have accidentally started the international movember movement with a 3-years of Moustache Growing Competitions in 2000, 2001 and 2003 in Wellington. Named The Month of Mo, we gave the meager proceeds to Oxfam NZ. They were however amazing parties with Moustache poetry ciphers amongst other antics. There is a Polaroid photograph evidence in the bottom of suitcase somewhere.[/information_box]