To a certain white-haired gent, Christmas has long been about one thing, and one thing only: face fuzz, and plenty of it. And now it seems Britain's retailers are catching up.
The beard, along with the usual Yuletide suspects of turkey, Brussels sprouts and obstreperous relatives, has a starring role in the bulk of this season's festive television advertisements.
Dad, it seems, wants to look the part while – children look away now – secretly filling those stockings. Or, at least, while watching from the sidelines while mum does the actual work, another of the ads' themes that some might, ahem, say is somewhat closer to reality.
Adverts from Asda, TK Maxx, Tesco, Debenhams and Morrisons all feature wintry whiskers of varying lengths, while a viral film from Adidas features a ghost David Beckham and a bearded Snoop Dogg playing the part of Ebenezer Scrooge.
Beards also feature in many of the seasonal trailers from the television channels themselves, with the BBC rolling out a hairy Rob Brydon for a promo of its festive programming, while a beard crops up in Jonathan Ross's Christmas special in one ITV preview.
The message from TK Maxx seems to be that the bigger the beard, the bigger the present stash,, which will come as little surprise to the all the under-sixes – or however old children are when they discover the truth about Father Christmas.
Beards get shorter shrift in Asda's ad, where a bewhiskered dad disappears after a few frames, and only serves to prop up the Christmas tree and reappear at the end to play with the presents.
If the likes of Marks & Spencer, Boots and Sainsbury's have cause to bemoan their festive performance in the New Year, beard aficionados, or pogonologists, will doubtless point to the surprising dearth of facial growth in their seasonal offerings.
James Bond, in his latest film, Skyfall, may have decided that stubble wasn't becoming for one of Her Majesty's secret agents, but the popularity of beards is on the up, most notably on men in their twenties and thirties. It's also been a boom year for celebrity beards, with everyone from Brad Pitt and David Beckham, to Leonardo DiCaprio and Jon Hamm sporting some serious facial hair.
In the UK, some point to the influence of our northern brethren for sparking the recent beard rush: the streets of Stockholm, Oslo and Copenhagen are thick with bearded men, and whatever passes for cool up there couldn't be more in vogue here.
Whatever the trigger, Britain's biggest retailers have firmly cottoned on to the selling power of serious stubble. Either that or they have several lorry loads of beard trimmers to shift before the January sales.
- More about:
- Christmas Turkey
- Festive Events (including Carnivals)
- Santa Claus
- Turkey (bird)