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Friday, April 26, 2013

Acquired Tastes, XXXIV: Beards


Fashionable?  Unfashionable? 

Goatee, Van Dyke, Abraham Lincoln.  Chin Curtain, Chin Strap, Friendly Mutton Chops.  Goat Patch, Soul Patch, Shenandoah. Neck Beard, Stubble, Scruff.

Name your poison. 

Do they tantalize or repulse?  Soothe you or irritate your skin?  Make you think of Matisyahu or Grandpa?  Do you like them natural, neatly trimmed, or artfully sculpted?  Are they sexy or a sign of bad hygiene?

Wearing one, does it make you look older or hip? 

Attracted to one, are you seducing The Professor, or going for that Blue Collar Bull?

Do you find pitcher Brian Wilson (MLB, San Francisco Giants) attractive?  Does Brad Pitt scruffy give you a chubby?  Does Alexander Bell push your buttons?  Has the thought of a naked Charles Darwin helped you evolve on the issue?

Love ‘em, hate ‘em, wanna masturbate with ‘em?

Where do you stand when it comes to a man in a beard?  Is it part of your personal no-fly list?  Or does it depend upon the man and the energy behind that chin curtain?

No matter.  Let’s grab this issue by the short hairs on our chinny-chin-chins, trim away our own clouded preconceived notions, and get down to the bare facts about…


Scope of Activity:

For the sake of this post, we will concentrate on the allure beards hold for gay men, and for the sake of this post, we will include all designs, including those with mustaches.

The Official Line:

From Wikipedia
A beard is the collection of hair that grows on the chin, upper lip, cheeks and neck of human beings and some non-human animals. In humans, usually only pubescent or adult males are able to grow beards. When differentiating between upper and lower facial hair, a beard specifically excludes the moustache.

Over the course of history, men with facial hair have been ascribed various attributes such as wisdom, sexual virility, masculinity, or a higher status; however, beards may also be perceived to be associated with a lack of general cleanliness and a loss of refinement, particularly in modern times.

Psychological Aspects:

When we view a man with a beard, our previous experiences combined with the energy of the individual behind those whiskers will cause us to make a snap assessment.   Does the beard make the individual come off as manly, mysterious, sexy, sensual, or sinister?  Scholarly, white trash, or as someone with something to hide? 

We, as the observer, must reach a conclusion as to the motivation of the grower/wearer, just as we have to psychologically check-in with ourselves in order to gage our emotional reaction to the beard.  Certainly our personal history and experience interacting with those of the bearded persuasion will help inform that reaction.  But it will be tempered not only by the energy of the person wearing the beard, but also by the type of beard the individual is sporting.

Fun Facts:

Professional airline pilots are required to be clean shaven to facilitate a tight seal with auxiliary oxygen masks.

Firefighters may be prohibited from full beards to obtain a proper seal with SCBA equipment.

This restriction is also fairly common in the oil & gas industry for the same reason in locations where hydrogen sulfide gas is a common danger.

The International Boxing Association prohibits the wearing of beards by amateur boxers (although the Amateur Boxing Association of England allows exceptions for Sikh men, on condition that the beard be covered with a fine net).

As a safety precaution, high school wrestlers must be clean-shaven before each match, though neatly trimmed moustaches are often allowed.

My Experience:

I am attracted to men with beards who come off as blue collar, red neck, granola, or mountain men.  The hipster thing always strikes me as douche bag territory or someone who is simply trying too hard.  Leather men?  Not necessary, but if it adds to the allure of the man as a dom, then hey, it works for me.   The scholarly thing?  Leaves me cold.  Makes me automatically think of bad sex.  I like the sinister thing, if it is playful, like a little devil. 

If you have a beard, you better bring an attitude to it.  Clueless beards are like those first-ever beards we ‘try’ to grow in our youth; they come off as a nice try, but lack true definition.

The darker the beard, the more striking it is to my eye. 

If they look unhygienic, I tend to avoid all contact – and, yeah, that’s kind of judgmental, but if you’ve ever kissed a smoker with a beard, you know what I’m talking about. 

I am not typically attracted to overweight men, but it might work for me with the right beard.  A good beard is always welcome on a hot, dom Daddy – sells that show every time for me.

I do like touching them, running my fingers through them during sex. 

In my younger years, I would grow a beard for a particular stage role, with increasing success as I grew older.  When I made the transition from actor to director, I wore a full beard in an effort to appear older (artistic directors for some reason seemed to take me more seriously – type casting?).  During this time, I was also closeted (because the message was still out there (in the Midwest) that to be successful in theatre you could not be openly gay) and the beard served as a sort of disguise.  So, no surprise that once I came out of the closet at the age of 28, the beard (along with theatre) began to lose its appeal. 

It’s only within the last few years that I have started playing around with growing one as a fashion statement, typically in winter, as a form of mild protest, I suppose.  Currently I have a kind of modified goatee with chin wings.  As the weather warms up, I will begin to trim and trim, eliminating it section by section, week by week.  I may keep the soul patch thing going for a bit, as I have never done that. 

The mustache portion is the bushiest it has ever been.  I’ve always liked/wanted that leather/biker stash, though, I suspect, you really need black hair in order for it to be truly effective.  In fact, I do believe that the most effective facial hair tends to be those darker of hue.  Mine is sort of a tabby cat variety of colors.  People tell me it makes me come off as professorial – not what I had hoped for, as I find intellectuals rather milquetoast sexually.    I was shooting for edgy, a quality I think that might be beyond my reach.

That said, the amazing thing about having a beard this time is the relative comfort I have found with the lack of hair on my head.  Yes, it seems to have had some kind of balancing effect, where, due to the scruff on my chin, I don’t mind showing off my bald pate.  So, for most of the winter, I have been going out in public sans baseball cap.  I know it’s a look that will appeal to a limited number, but then, isn’t that true of any look?  Even the Gummo look my head takes on without a beard?  So, why hide under a baseball cap?  Or behind a beard?  Why not take my lumps and concern myself with only those attracted to my unadorned self?

Well, spring is (finally) here, so the summer will tell whether I present myself in social situations (or cruise) without a cap or not. 

But the beard?  Oh, yeah… it’s going away.

My Conclusion:

We have such a history of images of men with beards stored in our heads.  And not only those that we actually come in contact with, but those we have seen in text books, on television, etc.  All of those encounters help inform our reaction to beards and the men that wear them.

Granted, a truly handsome man can get away with almost anything and still come across as attractive.  Those of us less blessed need to try harder (but not too, hard – some of those designer beards are off-putting to my eye). 

Bottom line – experiment.  Learn what works for your face – or doesn’t.  And that same experimental spirit should be extended to what we are attracted to, as well.   

And now, my favorite part of any acquired taste… here come the pics!