As previously established, I live in the suburbs and work at home in sweaty yoga clothes. Thus my trips into NYC are rare, and filled with unfamiliar sights. I have learned that all women now wear towering heels with many thick straps holding them to their feet, for example. And every time I come into Manhattan, (when I am not worrying that I have a neon sign on me that screams "Suburban Mother!") I am struck by the large percentage of guys under 40 with scruffy-looking beards much different than the trimmed goatees of my youth. We're talking super long, kind of disgusting facial hair, like Rip Van Winkle.
I'm old, so I can't help being a little mystified by the young. Why do the men of this generation have faces that look more like vaginas than the waxed-clean genitalia of its women? Razor blades are obscenely expensive, but I don’t think it is fair that men can let their facial hair run rampant, while woman have to be hyper-conscious of their pubic hair.
I sought insight from a really nice bearded man, a friend of a friend. He was sweet enough to answer all my questions about beards, and now I feel a little bad for being judgmental. His name is Alexander Yerks, and he is a photographer.
So, Alex, when did you first grow your beard?
I believe the first time I grew my beard was around August 2007.
People ask me this all the time. They also say "I've always wanted to, but..." My easiest answer is that it's just easy to grow one. You don't have to do anything! At all! Just let it grow!
Did you see someone or something that inspired you?
I think what made me really want to grow one was how most people usually frown upon beards. Which is strange, since it's in our genes to grow them. We did evolve this way for a reason! I always wondered why it's looked down upon, but now I think it is just the way modern society has shaped the way people look and dress. It seems like from the beginning of mankind, men grew beards to distinguish themselves from the rest. Most noblemen, religious figures, gods, or other powerful men had a signature bearded look. For example: George Harrison, Jesus, Fidel, Socrates, Merlin, Van Gogh, Darwin, Freud, and Papa Smurf. In the past, having a beard was almost a sign of wisdom that only came with age and experiences. It's actually interesting that only a few US presidents had beards. Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Lincoln, and Harrison.
Allrighty. How would you describe your look with the beard, v.s. before?
I don't think my look changed at all. Although it did add an extra 8 inches to my chin.
Any difference in how you seem to be perceived?
I do feel like I get more respect from the everyday person now that I have a beard, but it's not always positive respect. Some people don't get it. But some people dig it.
What is the best part of having a beard?
Saving money on razors, etc. Keeps your face and neck warm without a scarf. Less people on the street will mess with you. Having lived in Bushwick for two years with the beard definitely helped keep the street confrontations down.
The worst part?
It does weird some people out. This is probably the result of the last handful of generations having grown up with this GQ mentality of clean faces, men using cosmetics, and worrying way too much about how to dress. Actually now that I think of it, the worst part of having a beard was when Joaquin grew one. I think that made more people look at beards in a negative light.
Are there any beard maintenance issues?
Sometimes you can get "bedhead". Eating was a major challenge at first. Especially when you have a moustache. A handkerchief is your best friend.
Any beard mishaps? Or negatives to having a beard?
The TSA and airport security will give you multiple pat-downs and screenings. Smoking is a hazard. Trimming can be a nightmare. One wrong move and bye bye beard.
Do you find that there is a particular type that is attracted to guys with beards?
I haven't really had any particular type of women mention that beards are their thing. My girlfriend likes it though.
P.S. I met Alex recently, and he had shaved his beard! He said he missed it , though, and was thinking of growing it back.