Sorry, I just don't like beardies

Imagine Jimmy Hill, Sir Dickie Attenborough and Frank Dobson together and you see the problem

AND NOW, as if life were not complicated enough, we have to start worrying about men with beards, the problem of institutionalised beardism and a generalised threat to the right to sprout facial hair.

With a level of wit not usually associated with its home country, the Swedish furniture emporium Ikea has announced that bearded men are to be banned from its Bristol store. Those particularly addicted to the form of shopping purgatory offered by Ikea will be granted temporary beard permits but an uncompromising "Beardies are weirdies" policy will be enforced at the store.

It's a marketing stunt, of course. However, already there have huffy, po-faced mutterings from the usual whiskery activists. "No doubt Ikea thinks this is a joke, and we can all laugh at the man with a beard, Private Eye-type cartoon," announced Keith Flett, a regular letter-writer to newspapers and Britain's most frequently outraged man.

"However, post the Stephen Lawrence report, what Ikea is really doing is reinforcing the attitude that says it is OK to discriminate against someone because of who they are and how they look. That is unacceptable."

At this point, the argument becomes as tangled as David Bellamy's beard. Could it be that Flett is having a laugh, too? It seems unlikely.

Apart from the fact that facial hair is a sure sign of humourlessness (think only of the sublime, clean-shaven John Cleese of the early years and the dreary, bearded psychobabbler of more recent times), there's the reference to the report on the death of Stephen Lawrence - a jaw-dropping comparison, at least for those of us who have jaws to drop.

Once any form of prejudice is regarded as essentially part of the same moral problem as more serious intolerance, then madness will follow. For example, this column might already have prompted several Flettesque letters to the editor: "Sir, To suggest that the famously witty Swedes lack a sense of humour is offensive to... Sir, Your columnist's casual deployment of the term `psychobabbler' reveals a deep-seated bias against those of us in the psychiatric profession..."

Whatever the reason men have for growing beards (shyness, vanity, perhaps), I'm in favour of them facing up to their dysfunction. An act of self- presentation which, while drawing attention to itself, perversely provides a hedge of protection is surely a cry for help.

Clearly there are good beards as well as bad beards - for every Robin Cook, Manfred Mann or Maharishi Yogi, there's a David Blunkett, Bob Dylan or Jesus Christ - but, unfortunately, most beards are bad beards. Imagine Sir Dickie Attenborough, Jimmy Hill, Clement Freud, Frank Dobson and Sir Peter Hall in a studio together and you begin to see the problem.

Obviously, there are worse things than beards. Sideboards, for example. Who, studying the behaviour of the prostitute-stalking prime minister William Gladstone, the severe moralist Sir Rhodes Boyson or Slade's tuneless three-chord basher Noddy Holder, could seriously deny the connection between bushy facial mutton-chops and a problematic personality?

To those who will argue that my beardism is illogical and betrays a deep seated fear of the masculine, I would merely point out that others merely have a different set of prejudices - against people who smoke, or wear fur, or eat the wrong kind of food or talk on mobile telephones in restaurants.

Far from being the first slither down a slope leading to hatred, the amiable expression of minor intolerances is a social safety valve, a provision of colour in an increasingly grey world. Over-reaction to it leads only to moral confusion.

There were signs of the trend a few years ago when Randy Newman's ironic treatment of bigotry, "Short People", led to an absurd row over his alleged prejudice. Since then, knee-jerk disapproval of attitudes deemed unacceptable has become the norm.

It was there, disturbingly, in the Glenn Hoddle incident and in reactions to the bottom-wiggling antics of the Liverpool footballer Robbie Fowler. It was evident in a letter to the London Review of Books in which a correspondent claimed, in apparent seriousness, that the journalist Christopher Hitchens was "a self-confessed homophobe" on the grounds that he had once made a joke about the Cambridge spy ring and had argued that "people's sexual preferences are a legitimate subject for humour, dirty humour if at all possible".

The people who find so much of which to disapprove in modern life are almost certainly beardie weirdies, but that it still no excuse.

Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears