Anyone who has watched, or read the reaction to, any of the awards shows in the run up to the Oscars is likely to have noticed, or at least unlikely to have ignored, that a number of hunky leading men – the sort of A-grade celebrities whose faces sell fragrances – were stepping out with a most un-star like preponderance of facial hair. “The beard” the message seemed to be “is back.”
Truth be told, Hollywood has not been averse to the beard in recent times. The luxe-beatnik aesthetic of many modern stars necessitates some consistency in grooming; the clean-shaven look is somewhat unsuitable for tattooed thespians with a taste for unlaced boots. Which is why it is somewhat shocking to see Armani-favourite Clooney, in black tie, wearing the face-rug of an Edwardian banker.
The possibility is, as always with actors, that their current state of grooming is required for a current role. However, the number and variety of beards suggests that either a Biblical epic of mammoth expense was currently being filmed or that Hollywood, that sometimes unwilling – and often unworthy – window of trend, had actually taken Marxist facial regimes to their hearts.
I have never grown a beard and I have never been compelled to. However, despite the fact that it seemed to me to be a) unattractive to women b) uncomfortable to maintain and c) terribly ageing, there is something dignified about a well-grown beard.
Ben Affleck, once a clean-chinned mainstream popcorn-selling Hollywood product, now looks Bohemian; pensive and artistic. Seemingly, no more ‘squeaky-clean’ equals no more generic output. The beard signifies hastened maturity and an overnight appreciation for quality. You never look young when you wear a beard, but then you never look naive either.
Like a black and white photo, a beard can also cover a multitude of sins. A weak chin, an inexpressive mouth or an unremarkable profile; all can be masked or improved by a well-shaped beard. “Feminine features too” a friend said “a beard sets them off perfectly.” A finely shaped nose or gentle eyes are set off by their proximity to a facial forest, creating that balance between gruff masculinity and androgynous beauty.
Although the beardy look is often seen on those with, say, a less formal approach to dressing, it has not prevented the more dashing sartorial crowd from adopting it. “The contrast” a bearded friend said “with a neat, tailored, three-piece suit makes the whole look feel a lot more grown up.” However, those willing to experiment should be warned; “It’s not the most comfortable thing I’ve ever done to my face.”