It seems to me that one issue men have had to face for ages is, “To beard or not to beard - that is the question.” Sorry, Mr Shakespeare, I just couldn’t resist.
Yep, most men naturally grow facial hair beginning with the onset of puberty. The problem lies with deciding what, if anything, to do about the facial foliage. It’s kinda interesting that biologists characterize beards as “secondary sexual characteristics” because they are unique to one sex, yet do not play a direct role in reproduction. However, biologists have also concluded there is evidence that a preponderance of females find men with beards more attractive than men without beards.
How about them apples?
We don’t know when men started shaving or trimming their hairy faces but we know that in Indian, Mesopotamian, and Persian civilizations some thousands of years ago, beards were a matter of social status. Only high-ranking officials, philosophers, and members of the higher social strata were allowed to grow and keep a beard.
On the other hand, among the ancient Greeks, Celts, and Romans, having a beard was a sign of virility and wisdom. Oaths were taken with beards on the line – “I swear by my beard” – and shaving them often signified either a notable accomplishment, a major disappointment, or perhaps a state of mourning.
Beards can play an important role in some religions. In Greek mythology and art, Zeus and Poseidon are always portrayed with beards and in Norse mythology Thor, the god of thunder, is pictured wearing a red beard. Jesus is almost always depicted with a beard as are other Biblical characters such as Moses, St. Peter, and John the Baptist. Eight of the thirteen figures in the “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci are bearded.
Today, Amish men shave until they are married, then grow a beard and are never thereafter without one.
On the other hand, men of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (Mormons) are encouraged to be clean shaven, particularly those who serve in ecclesiastical leadership positions; and, there are formal prohibitions against facial hair for young men entering their two-year missionary service. In addition, the honor code of Brigham Young University states in part: “Men are expected to be clean-shaven; beards are not acceptable”.
Okay, so why might this year become the year of the beard?
Growing a beard has historically been one way of men showing rebellion against the status quo, that is, the existing state of affairs. As a visible sign of their dissent with the Catholic church former clean-shaven priests who led the Reformation, such as Martin Luther, grew beards.
In the 1960’s “hippies” grew beards as a show of their defiance of the clean-shaven “establishment”. Beards became so associated with “hippies” that men shaved their beards to distance themselves from the movement.
This country was recently rocked by an incident involving the bearded patriarch of the immensely popular “Duck Dynasty” TV show. He was “suspended” from the show because of his remarks to an interviewer in which he dissociated himself from those who participate in homosexual conduct. His suspension led to quite an outpouring of support from millions of folks across the nation and his suspension was lifted.
This was not the first encounter between the cast and the network in that the network wanted to eliminate prayer and other religious, moralistic segments. He and the other bearded members of this show, along with the women, stood firm, however, in their beliefs in religion, home, family, and the relationship between men and women. And the network conceded.
What appears to be happening is that guys across the country are quietly recognizing the leadership of the bearded “Duck Dynasty” men in matters such as religion, marriage between a man and a woman, and the importance of family - by growing beards. Furthermore, according to my limited talks with women whose husbands are now growing beards, they agree with the symbolism - and don’t forget those studies indicating women are more attracted to men with beards than those without.
Anyway, we may be on our way to the year of the beard. Well, I suppose I’m doing a disservice by exposing this low-level but visible affirmation of principles. Yep, we beard-wearers will likely be subjected to vicious attacks by the politically correct elite, but that comes with the territory.
At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at email@example.com.