Beard envy: Trends that start with the young eventually seep into the middle-aged community

At 16, my friend had sideburns like Jason King's. I was insanely jealous

Marcus Berkmann
Friday 18 December 2015 18:45 GMT
At 16, my friend had sideburns like Jason King's. I was insanely jealous
At 16, my friend had sideburns like Jason King's. I was insanely jealous

It seems a while now since I read an article wondering whether we had reached Peak Beard. Which itself suggests that we may have reached Peak Peak Beard. Meanwhile, the evidence of our eyes, among other senses, tells us that beards are continuing to thrive.

Fashion, as we know, is an exercise in crowd control, slightly more effective than police armed with batons, and slightly less so than the Nuremburg rallies. So many young men prone to sheep-like conformity have thrown aside their razors, and grown vast topiarised appendages where their chins used to be that the very texture of daily life seems to have altered.

On public transport, men's heads seem bigger. Women are flocking to doctors' surgeries with severe cases of beard rash. I read somewhere that Gillette shares are in freefall and that Wilkinson Sword executives are leaping to their deaths from the tops of tall buildings, although it's also possible that I made that up. It's quite strange watching football, when half of the players on each side bear an uncanny resemblance to WG Grace. Peak beard? I don't think we're even close.

Trends that start with the young eventually seep into the middle-aged community, and one or two of my friends have now started to grow the full naval. There may be sound and practical reasons for this: few of them have proper jobs any more, and there are seasonal openings for those suitably equipped in department stores across the nation. But as you'll notice from the photograph above (which is updated weekly), I remain resolutely clean-shaven. There are sound reasons for this too. Having spent all my life mocking the bearded, I now pretend that my increasingly lonely resistance to the beard hegemony is a matter of principle. But it isn't. The truth is more prosaic. I can't really grow one.

Beard envy began early for me, and has gone on for far too long. As a tiny, hairless youth I was as ill-equipped for adult life as a witchetty grub. One of my contemporaries, though, had sideburns like Jason King's. When we were 16, his hairiness seemed like a statement of intent. “Whatever you throw at me, I am equal to. I have the sideburns of maturity. If I felt like it, I could grow a moustache by lunchtime.”

I was insanely jealous. I had no idea that early hairiness would have two rather less welcome side-effects: premature baldness, and the spread of hair across the body to form a protective pelt, which keeps you warm in winter but might alarm anyone who sees you naked. Every week during the cricket season I disrobe in a changing room with men of a certain age, and I rue my still decent eyesight. Who ever knew the human body could do such things?

Unlike Esau, then, I am not An Hairy Man. If I tried to grow a beard, people would ask if I had contracted mange. But the real punishment is that I am now starting to go bald. It's just a the size of a 10p piece at present, but it'll be wallet-sized before long. For years I assumed that my bodily hairlessness would protect me from the chrome-dome, but it turns out that nothing can. I don't have enough testosterone to be hairy, but I have too much to allow me to keep what I have. It makes no sense, but the lesson is clear. Nature has the last laugh, and the first laugh, and all the laughs in between.

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