It’s World Beard Day, so no shaving
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It is considered disrespectful to shave on World Beard Day but Lynne Mortimer doesn’t care, she’ll shave if she wants to.
Celebrated annually on the first Saturday of September, World Beard Day is, according to its website, “characterised by the happiness of all people being with their beards and with each other”.
It continues: “On World Beard Day, it is customary for the bearded members of a family to relax and partake in no jobs or chores. The beardless members of the family traditionally show their support by waiting on the bearded hand and foot. (Don’t hold your breath, guys) World Beard Day is all about promoting and elevating the global status of the beard.”
Beards come and go. There is a trendy, hipster element that’s usually associated with younger men who have beards that aren’t grey with age. Then there are the older men with short, mostly grey beards. British kings of the 20th century started off with beards - Edward VII and George V were bearded. Then came Edward VIII and George VI, both without beards. What will the next king (scheduled to be Prince Charles) do? I’d guess without although, in his 20s, while with the Royal Navy, he did sport a beard for a short while. Prince William is without, Prince Harry is with and Prince George? It’s too soon to say.
The most famous kingly beard is probably Henry VIII’s who, after his beard-free teens and went for full facial hair - a cover, perhaps, for multiple chins. Beards have also been known to disguise a weak chin or a lack of chin or (in the case of the late sports presenter Jimmy Hill, a surfeit of chin).
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Two of my favourite showbiz men - George Clooney and Graham Norton have gone over to the beardie side, both now sporting neat (though grey) embellishments.
And the greybeard movement has made inroads into the highest echelons of politics. The Shadow Cabinet is positively sprouting, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Barry Gardiner (Shadow Secretary of of State for International Trade), Andy McDonald (Shadow Secretary of State for Transport), ) and Jon Trickett (Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office) all greybeards. The only shadow cabinet member without grey in his beard (or was it a trick of the light) is Andrew Gwynne who shadows Communities and Local Government.
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Meanwhile, over on the Government’s front bench, there is but one beard and it belongs to Scottish Secretary David Mundell. Is he a trailblazer or will he succumb to the Philishave?
I find kissing bearded men, even in a brief “mwa mwa” greeting rather scratchy. At the same time, it is not unattractive. Some men wear beards well but grooming is of the essence - no one wants to see a beard that seamlessly joins up to chest hair.
A Short History of Beards at historycooperative.org says that currently, beards are used to show masculinity, fashion, and status while our prehistoric male ancestors used them for warmth, intimidation and protection. Beards were a sign of honour in ancient Greece and were cut off only as a punishment but then, around 345BCE Alexander the Great decreed that soldiers should shave in case their beards were grabbed and held on to in battle.
Ancient Romans liked their beards trimmed and well groomed. In around 600BCE Roman citizen Lucius Tarquinius Pricus, encouraged the use of razors to promote hygiene but it took about 150 years for the idea of being clean-shaven to catch on.
In Britain, the Anglo-Saxons wore beards until the advent of Christianity in the 7th century, when clergy were required to be clean-shaven. The beard made a comeback in the Crusades and has been pretty much a matter of fashion and personal choice ever since.
A YouGov poll at the end of 2016 determined that 58% of men in the UK had no beard, 18% claimed a beard and moustache, 17% stubble, 3% moustache only, and 2% beard only. We do not have statistics for the percentage of greybeards. When men with facial hair were asked their reasons for growing it, 32% cited laziness, 27% said it was habit to have a beard and 11% said it was to make them look more attractive. And women? Well, 46% preferred men clean-shaven, 13% preferred a beard and 39% didn’t mind, either way. What does that tell us? Not much, I think.
What we can say with a high degree of certainty is that while it may be customary for the bearded members of a family to relax do nothing while the rest of the family waits on them, none of that sort of thing will be going on in my house.