Several weeks back, while out for breakfast with my cousins Micah and Sterling, somehow the topic of facial hair came up. How and why it came up now escapes me, but it did. And, thinking that as good a time as any, I proceeded to lay out my opinions on hair and gender. Ever since, and for years prior, I have wanted to write out my thoughts on this semi-important topic.
In short, I believe men and boys should have short hair. And men who can grow facial hair should. Women meanwhile should grow their hair out long.
Now before you say it, just stop. That is a very sexist position I am taking. I know. So, what? If I must be a sexist to hold this view, so be it. Let me be a sexist then. Better to be a sexist than to blur the lines between men and women and destroy things so beautiful and important as distinct masculinity and femininity.
Now also, let me stop another objection I see coming before I get into stating and explaining my actual views. Some men complain they are not very good at growing facial hair. They have tried, but they say it comes in all patchy and sparse. Well, I am sorry. That is very unfortunate. But maybe you just need more testosterone. Go do manly things for a while and try again. Or don’t. Maybe beards aren’t for men who whine about not being able to grow them.
Who are beards for then?
Why did God give men beards?
There is an ancient Greek saying which comes to mind. “There are two kinds of people in this world that go around beardless – boys and women – and I am neither one.”
Perhaps that is overstating things a bit, but I appreciate the sentiment.
The point is that, for some reason, God ordained that men should be able to grow on their faces these things we call beards. And, if I may tell you my opinion why, I think God did this for much the same reason he gave the male lion in Africa his mane.
African lions are not the largest of the big cats. That title goes to Siberian tigers, the males of which weigh in at an average of 700 pounds. Male lions, surprisingly enough, only weigh an average of 418 pounds. Yet, between the two, which is more majestic? Which appears more to command, and has the prerequisite crowning glory? The male lion has his mane, and so we refer to him rather than the tiger as the king of the jungle.
If pressed, I should rather not face either a tiger or a lion with my bare hands. But you see my point.
Similarly, let it not be said that men who do not grow their beards are not manly, authoritative, or dangerous. Rather, I think there is something we miss out on by not growing our beards when we can.
Beards are good, but gainful employment is better.
Those who know me may here also state an objection. Why, if this is my opinion, do I shave my beard as often as I let it grow?
Yes, about half the time I go around naked-faced. I admit it. But it is not for personal preference.
Working on the service side of the oil and gas industry as an automation technician, many of my customers have policies about not allowing men with facial hair onto their well sites. The merits of this are debatable, but basically amount to concerns regarding poisonous gases like hydrogen sulfide which, if present in sufficient quantities, can kill a man immediately if he is not wearing an SCBA – self-contained breathing apparatus, or SCUBA above water, if you will. To get a good seal with the mask, you must be clean-shaven. Therefore, many customers insist everyone be constantly clean-shaven on the off-chance someone needs to wear one of these masks.
Now I will point out that I have only had to wear an SCBA a couple of times in almost 6-years of working in this industry, and I have never had to wear one without sufficient advanced warning to shave. However, just to be on the safe side, and to keep myself out of hot water with the sticklers, and in the interest of job security, I will from time to time shave my beard to remind everyone I can and will follow the rules if necessary.
This, of course, brings me to a qualifier on my opinion. I think beards are great, and that we men should grow ours out as a way of embracing our God-given masculinity. However, we should not do so at the expense of gainful employment.
Why is being clean-shaven considered more professional?
On the other hand, outside of safety situations like in oil and gas, I really do loath and detest the standard of professionalism which says that beards are unsightly and that men should be clean-shaven as a matter of course and aesthetic. There is something wrong with broader society if men must shave their beards to get or keep jobs.
If, as I reason, the ability of men to grow beards is God-given, and if beards are a symbol of our virility, authority, and masculinity, then to tell men they must shave in order to have a place in polite society or the workplace is to say that they must surrender their strength and manliness, and show always their submission by leaving their beards at the door.
And this would not be out of step with much of the rest of what happens in broader society. All that talk of department store toy aisles doing away with stereotypes which say girls like playing with pink dolls and boys like playing with swords and guns and blue trucks; all that tank of gender being a social construct, and children being taken away from their parents if their parents will not support cross-dressing and hormone therapy to change them from a boy to a girl or vice versa – it would not be surprising if the push to make men beardless was in some part just another brick in the wall.
I was for growing beards before it was cool.
That said, you should point out that beards have been en vogue for a few years now. The whole “lumbersexual” fashion trend of men wearing flannel shirts and skinny jeans and Red Wing boots, and smoking pipes – a critical fixture of this style is growing big, bushy beards. Great, right?
Well, no. Not really. And I might as well tell all you hipsters out there that I was for growing beards before it was cool.
But I say that only half in jest. I think some of the effect is diminished if we men are growing our beards because that is the fashion. That is only a little better than not growing our beards for the same reason. And just like the hipster “lumbersexual” look only really imitates lumberjacks but would find actual hipsters quickly exhausted if having to do actual lumberjack work, the goal of growing a beard should not be to pose as a man. The goal should be to embrace, in this way and every other way, our God-given manliness in all its glory.
I would also speculate here, however. The fashion as of late is a counter-movement against gender-bending, androgenizing, and all the rest. Our men have been, even if only subconsciously, yearning for even this small token of reclaiming their manhood.
Perhaps too the trend toward beards has been influenced by the promotion of Islam, as much as that thought disturbs me. Surely other compromises and sympathies have been encouraged to make the West more palatable and less offensive to jihadists – avoiding cartoon depictions of Mohammed, encouraging women to dress more modestly, threatening anyone who criticizes Islam or Muslims with loss of job or legal action. Perhaps here too with beards we have tried to come their way a bit.
I believe we men can honor God by growing our beards.
This then brings me to my last clarification. I do not believe having a beard necessarily makes a man any holier. So, for instance, in the case of Muslims. A Muslim man who is growing his beard out because he believes he is obligated to before his god does not gain any brownie points.
For my own heritage, being descended from Amish and Mennonites on my dad’s side, a similar mentality has taken root in the most conservative circles. So also, I have observed that a lot of Reformed Christians take to beards, perhaps or perhaps not as a sign of their piety.
I hope to make perfectly clear that this is not what I’m advocating.
However, I do not believe either that we should cut off our nose to spite our face. It would be a mistake to avoid growing beards as Christian men merely because we are overly anxious about not becoming self-righteous about it like the Amish and Muslims do.
On the other hand, I do believe God created two separate and distinct genders for a glorious purpose. What is more, I believe we do honor God when we embrace his purposes in all things, and I think men growing beards can be a way of doing this. Let me say that again. I believe we men can honor God by growing our beards.
Similarly, women should let their hair grow out long, and men should not. Manbuns are ridiculous, but long hair on women is lovely. But, alas, I digress. And that is a topic for another day.