When dewy actors like Ryan Gosling and Jake Gyllenhaal started showing up on the red carpet sporting savvy cheek fringe and sandpaper chins, it marked the dawn of a post millennial obsession with facial hair. Something traditionally associated with age and wisdom has since become a sexy symbol of youthful defiance and de rigueur for arts students, the sort who wear chinos and draw their opinions from backyard blogs.
My beard, however, is not a bid for coolness (though coolness is inevitable), or a representation of my political views, but rather an indulgence in one of the more curious campus superstitions I have come across. The exam beard, for those of you who don't know, is one of a myriad of ways to prepare yourself for whatever is waiting for you at the end of term. The concept is simple. For the weeks leading up to and during your exams, you do not shave. Then, presumably by the grace of some unseen hairy gods, you will achieve good marks. Okay, so it's not the most rational revision tactic and those late night stretches in the library must not be avoided, but having a beard I've found, does represent a number of plus sides.
In addition to the rugged fashion statement, your beard will give you a newfound rebellious confidence. The university environment is after all a fundamentally militaristic one. And unless you're from Sparta, there's nothing military about a beard. Indeed, your shaggy jowl will make you a free spirit, ready to buck the authority of the mark scheme with some righteous, radical essay writing, as well as providing you with something to contemplatively stroke that won't get you arrested.
Personally, I find wearing a beard makes you feel two inches taller and a stone burlier, not to mention that it removes the arduous task of shaving from your daily routine.
In many ways, it is the lazy man's alternative to weightlifting and you'll feel far more relaxed going into your exams. It's an experience I thoroughly recommend, if only for the novelty of being mistaken for a lecturer.
Far from the charge of untidiness, the exam beard oozes an intellectual machismo and who knows, it might prove useful on those rare nights out you allow yourself in third year. And while there might be some resistance from jealous friends unable to grow their own whiskery wingman, you must not, for any reason, shave.
Ultimately, the exam beard magic is a binding spell, one that must not be broken prematurely, unless you wish to surrender yourself to the spurious success of a 2.2.