Rebecca Front: 'Facial hair fashions include goatees and soul patches and the topiaried eyebrow'

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The Independent Online

If you ask me, the best indicator of the zeitgeist is men's facial hair. Take the Victorians, for example, pioneers in science and technology. These men wore big beards. And mutton chop whiskers. Even, on occasion, kiss curls. They grew hair at every conceivable angle from their faces, as if to say to an enquiring world: "My head is full of investigative zeal. I have no time to snip and trim and wax. And even if I had the time I wouldn't, because this is a brave new world, and I can sprout like no man has sprouted before." Look at their images: Charles Darwin, sporting a beard that seemed to prove man's closeness to the apes. Look at the 5th Governor of Michigan, a man solid enough in his convictions to be able to withstand both his unfortunate name (Alpheus Felch) and a ridiculous nude top and chinstrap beard. Was this a man who feared being laughed at? Certainly not.

And it's not just Victorian men who were defined by their facial fashion. Take the hippies of the Sixties, so confident in their sexual liberation that the dolly-birds would still hang out with them, even though their fresh-faced youthfulness was marred by unwashed phizog pubery. Look at Second World War Spitfire pilots and their handlebar moustaches. You don't need an Enigma machine to decode those whizz-bang whiskers. They say: Listen, Gerry. I've got a spitfire coming your way. Do you really want to laugh at the weird aberration below my nostrils?

And so to the facial hair fashions of today, the overly fussy fuzz: goatees, side-strips and soul patches. And oddest of all – the topiaried eyebrow: waxed underneath, and in extreme cases striped at the sides. What is that all about? It was when I remembered a male friend saying he'd shaved his chest because he was bored, that its message became clear: I've nothing to do but look at myself in a mirror while doodling with my shaver. Consequently, I have nothing of any interest to say. But with luck, you will be so distracted by my bizarre eyebrows, you won't notice.

That is 2010 in a nutshell. We should all be very proud.

Rebecca Front is an actress and comedian.