I had decided to do this a couple of weeks ago, for a variety of reasons, and, last Sunday I entered the bathroom bearded, and exited again, clean-shaven – and apparently – according to my four year old – ‘looking like a mum’.
But, before I get into the reasons why I decided to shave it off, why did I decide to grow it in the first place?
The Origin Story
Once upon a time, I didn’t have a beard. And like many of those without beards, I had to shave regularly in order to stay that way. Short version – I am, what a barber would call – ‘a bleeder’. However, it took me a while to get to this realisation – and, me being me – that meant I had tried everything from cut-throat razors right through to the new million bladed semi-disposables you find on the shelves now. Dry shave, wet shave, full face prep with soap and a badger bristled brush – it made little difference. I would end up with piles of little nicks and a throat red and raw. I had finally settled into a routine of dry shaving with an electric shaver.
At the time, Alice, my partner and myself were also looking at ways of getting out more into the bush and had volunteered at Muller Hut as DOC wardens the previous year. The next year, Welcome Flat Hut was the plan. Two weeks remote. Sounded like the perfect excuse/opportunity not to shave!
When I got home, I had the beginnings of a beard. To be fair, it was pretty poor – I have since found that my facial hair grows slowly, and fairly thinly. However, I had a decent amount fuzz on my face and decided to leave it there for a while.
The New Zealand Beard Appreciation Society
A couple of nights/weeks later – after a couple of Vodka Martini’s (yes, shaken not stirred) I turned around to Alice and mused something about the beard, she responded that I should start a club up.
So I did. I turned around, and mostly-jokingly created the New Zealand Beard Appreciation Society on Facebook. I had a couple of mates join, and figured it wouldn’t ever go much further than that. I was wrong. Tens turned to hundreds, hundreds to thousands, and well… it kept growing.
Apparently, I had got in just on the cusp of an international trend. I put it down to several factors, from a couple of popular TV shows at the time (Duck Dynasty, Sons Of Anarchy to name a couple) and a growing ‘desire’ for men to reclaim something uniquely male. Whatever it was, it proved popular – and the page grew and grew and grew.
Before I knew it, we had shirts, Beardies and, I had started making and selling NZ’s first Beard Oil. This started because I was looking for something for my own beard, a couple of other lads wanting some, and away we went. I never intended it to become a business, so never really pushed it, and by the time I realised I could have, several other companies had cottoned on (literally copied in at least once case) the idea and the market were really already saturated with guys who were a lot more, ah, hungry to develop a business about it than I ever was.
Regardless, somewhere in there, the notion of having a beard ‘jumped the shark’ for me. Suddenly, people were self-identified as a bearded man, whereas I had always been a guy who had grown a beard one day. I had 16-year-old boys messaging me asking for tips on how to grow a beard quicker – and – something that I had started out of a desire to not worry so much about my self-image – and turned into another avenue for people to fret and worry about their self-image through.
Maintenance, grooming and not looking like a homeless guy.
The best advice I can give to anyone who wants to keep their beard looking tidy is simple – make sure you have a regular haircut. If you have a sharp haircut going on, then your beard tends to fit in nicely as well.
I actually never really spent much time trimming or maintaining my beard. It tended to grow looking like I did, and apart from the odd bit of oil (I actually didn’t even bother with that after a few years), it didn’t need to pay much attention to it.
If you want your beard to grow faster – the advice is simple – eat well, exercise and get lots of sleep. Hair growth is tied into your wellbeing – for lads – testosterone levels as well – so basically, be a man, man! Suddenly though, everyone had a magic lotion to help your beard look bigger, shiner, smoother and in the case of one company – a rebranded multivitamin that promised faster beard growth.
There is also this simple fact – genetics. Some guys have big bushy beards, some guys, thin, wispy beards (like me). You also have this thing called terminal length – your beard (and your hair) will only really grow to a certain length that is hard-coded into your DNA. That is why some ladies can grow hair to their shoulders, some their bums, and some down to the floor. It’s not as simple as just not cutting it. Sometimes it will only grow a certain way.
Public Response, Recognition, Uniform
Over time, people came to know my face, and my beard through my various social media channels. In fact, I would suggest some people know my beard better than my actual face or sadly, the work I do.
Like anything ‘signature’ eventually, it becomes so ingrained that it’s basically uniform. Calling card. How you are known. I wasn’t ever really that big on that, but, like the whole hipster hunter persona – used it as a way of getting my ‘face’ out there.
I got the odd bit of stick for the beard, but mainly, in large part, I feel due to timing, it was accepted and approved.
For me, the beard was partially practical – because it basically required minimal maintenance (apart from a regular haircut) and partially symbolic. A beard is something uniquely masculine, and being involved in the outdoors and hunting community, as well as being a modern man, it was the opposite of some mainstream pushes at the time towards androgyny and sexlessness. I have no issue with it as a concept, but at the same time, do feel that the masculine and feminine physiology, psychology are unique and have traditionally served a separate role. We are living in a time where our social constructs and expectations have evolved at a rate much more rapid than our biological systems have been able to keep up. Maybe one day we will evolve into something much like the ‘Greys’ – but that is a little while off yet.
I guess, at some level, it was also a bit of a pushback against the whole ‘toxic masculinity’ movement – basically meaning, I feel there is always a middle ground and too many people are trying to turn things into a black and white solution. Partisan. You are either on our team or theirs.
I don’t think any of these thoughts really dominated more than the others – more just big mix and mash of concepts and ideas floating around in my head.
So why cut it?
A lot of people have suggested it somehow was timed or as a response to the Covid19 lockdown we have just entered. Not really. The decision was actually made a couple of weeks ago, but me being me, I thought I might as well get in touch with a company and see if I could get them to send out some kit for me to try and use in the process. Basically, it took a few weeks to get that sorted.
Over the last couple of months, a couple of things started to annoy me.
Actually, the moustache started getting trimmed regularly a few months ago – as I got tired of constantly picking hair out of my teeth. I really liked the look of an untrimmed walrus, but the practicality was getting to me.
Additionally, I had started to get the beard caught up more and more in the stocks and chassis systems I was shooting (on the rifles). Especially with adjustable cheek rests, which I have a preference for – I would often either pinch the beard while putting my head into position or, get caught up when coming back out of position.
The same beard was also starting to get caught up in zips on jackets.
I am a practical person, and equipment interface issues bug me, big time. It might seem to some of you to be a silly reason to cut a beard off, but then, you have to understand that I wasn’t that ‘attached’ to it in the first place.
I suppose, the majority of my hesitancy to do so had become due to other peoples expectations and wants, rather than my own. Cutting it off wasn’t an act of spite towards them – but – it did finally occur to me that I shouldn’t really have to pay too much consideration to what anything felt I could or could not do with my own body and it’s facial hair.
Off it goes then!
The decision was made. Now the practical considerations.
No beard would mean I would need to shave again.
For lack of a better term, I am, as a barber once said – ‘a bleeder’. An edge near my neck results in piles of tiny little lacerations and bleeding.
I will go into this more on another article/video soon – but before I get inundated with suggestions – I have tried most of them.
Dry Shave, Wet Shave, Modern Multi Bladed Razor, Safety Razor, Cut-Throat, all different soaps, balms, techniques and styles… I eventually came to the conclusion and realisation that dry shaving with a modern electric razor was the easiest, most comfortable and least bloody option.
So, I wanted to get an electric unit again.
I previously had researched (everything, like I do) and settled on a Braun Series 7 Shaver. It made logical sense for me to, therefore, get in touch with them and see if they would like to send a unit out in exchange for some content. The sent out a beard trimming kit and a shaver unit.
Kids. Don’t surprise them.
I had seen a few videos online of guys shaving off a beard and then surprising family and kids with their new look. I mean, sure, funny in one way, but highly traumatic in another! 😉
I figured it would be better to have the little ones involved – even though I knew they wouldn’t be able to stand to hang around for the whole time.
So. Now what?
I mean, it would almost be the perfect time to justify starting a beard again. Week one of lockdown for Covid19 and all – but I think I will continue to be clean-shaven for a little while again. It gives me a bit of routine and personal grooming to focus on and provide some structure – one thing think is going to be important for all of us over the next couple of weeks.
I will be doing another article/video on the products Braun sent out to me, as normally talking as much about the why as the how and the what. There is a reason I wanted the Braun product, I contacted them and no-one else – and if they didn’t send me one I was going to buy a unit.
So. Who thinks I will get ID’ed the next time I can buy alcohol in a store again?
Enjoy the video.