In case you hadn’t noticed – beards are back. No longer just the facial hair choice of bikers and ageing hippies, everyone from Oscar winners to Australian football stars are sporting Ned Kelly-style beards these days and trendy barbershops are popping up all over the country.
Barber Nathan Meers has been cutting hair for 15 years and recently set up the retro-themed Happy Sailors Barbershop in Redfern in inner-city Sydney. He currently trims up to five beards a day.
“Particularly in the last two or three years I think there’s been a big jump in it. It’s become fashionable again,” he said.
“Guys always had a bit of stubble the past five years or so but they’re starting to get longer beards.
“I think guys are just sick of shaving. Sick of that whole metrosexual look. So they’d like to be a bit more rugged-looking.”
Nathan’s client Mark gets treated differently now he has a beard.
“I don’t know if it’s psychological or whether it’s actually happening but I think a man gets an extra respect just having a beard. I find when you go to shops they sort of give you more time of day,” Mark said.
Facial hair is so popular that men are not buying razors as often as they used to.
The parent company of shaving giant Gillette, Procter and Gamble, recorded a 17 per cent drop in income for the December quarter last year.
The trend is so out of control in the hipster capital of the world, Brooklyn, New York, that men who struggle to grow an ample beard are forking out up to $US8,500 for facial hair transplants – surgery that helps make beards look thicker and less patchy.
Riding high on the resurgence of facial hair is ARIA nominated comedy folk-rock band, The Beards – four men with lustrous beards who only write songs about beards.
According to frontman Johann Beardraven, the band were well ahead of the recent facial hair revival when they formed in Adelaide in 2005.
“When we started playing a lot of people didn’t have beards, it was a rather more beardless time back in the mid-2000s, a dark day for beards,” he said.
“Once we started performing people went, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll grow a beard,’ and then they did. And now lots of people have beards.”
About to release their fourth beard-themed album and embark on an extensive Australian tour, Beardraven revealed the secret to The Beards’ success.
“Pretty much all of our efforts go into maintaining our beards. Very little of it goes into our songs,” he said.
Some of their hits include You Should Consider Having Sex With A Bearded Man and If Your Dad Doesn’t Have A Beard You’ve Got Two Mums.
Some of The Beards’ most devoted fans belong to The Sydney Facial Hair Club – a social group for whiskery men and their admirers that started early last year.
When asked why he loved his bushy beard, one member explained: “I look like a 12 year old without a beard.”
Another member liked having family members ask him to play Santa around Christmas time.
But beard appreciation is nothing new. Marcus Pastorelli, president of The Harbour City Bears, a social collective of hirsute gay men, says bears (hairy gay men) have been celebrating hairiness for years.
“As long as there’s been bears there’s been beards. It’s synonymous with bear culture. What’s not to love about hairiness? It’s cuddly, furry, warm. Yeah lovable,” he said.
So are there any negatives to having a beard? The Beards’ bassist, Nathaniel Beard says: “No! Well, maybe”.
“Anyone with a beard would tell you there are not downsides to having a beard, except for eating cereal and soup. Soup gets a little messy,” he said.
We have seen beards come and go before – so how long will it be until men are clean shaven again?
Aaron ‘The Bearded Baron’ from the Sydney Facial Hair Club is not in any hurry.
“In my foreseeable future it’ll never go out of fashion. I think I’m stuck with this thing for the rest of my life,” he said.