Down here in south Louisiana, we have a saying – “Laissez les bon temps rouler.” The French adage translates to “Let the good times roll” in English, but the most important thing to know is that if someone says it to you – or anywhere within earshot – it means it’s time to party.
That’s the principal attitude of most residents – and visitors – in this part of the country. For better or worse, southern Louisiana (or more precisely, New Orleans) has gained a reputation for being home to a nonstop party.
And it’s not without good reason. Celebration is a huge part of Louisiana culture – from Mardi Gras to football season, the good times are most certainly always rolling. But the type of partying that happens in Louisiana isn’t the same kind of partying that happens anywhere else in the U.S. It’s a party driven by rich historical roots in jazz music, Cajun and creole food, French, Spanish and Native American influences, and of course, bourbon. Whether you’re in New Orleans itself, Baton Rouge, or any of the other tiny towns throughout the state, you can feel the history and the depth of culture all around you.
So how do beardsmen, with a burgeoning culture of their own, fit in and find a voice in a place that’s already totally saturated in its own unique culture?
It’s most certainly a double edged sword. On one hand, while any two individual cultures might be mutually exclusive from one another on the surface, that doesn’t mean that they can’t intertwine and coexist in a way that’s beneficial to people on both sides of the fence. We live in a world that’s slowly but surely learning to accept people from all walks of life, which is great news for beardsmen. There’s still a place for historic and cultural identities, though, and the nexus of all those things – history, culture and a communal respect for all things different and new – is where this bearded movement really thrives.
Beards are nothing new to Louisianans. They may very well actually be more prevalent here than in other areas of the United States. Get a few miles away from the “big” cities like New Orleans, Baton Rouge or Lafayette, and make your way out near the bayous and swamps that Louisiana is famous for, and every other man you see will likely be sporting some semblance of facial hair.
So the Urban Beardsman mission is alive and well in Louisiana, then, isn’t it? Well now we find the other edge of that sword. Louisiana, while holding true to all of the cultural traditions I’ve previously mentioned, isn’t impervious to also taking on the regional aspects of deep southern living.
Just like Texas, Mississippi and Alabama, Louisiana is just as prone to falling into the stubborn, generationally-bound tendencies that this region of our nation is so often mocked for. Those same men you’d see sporting facial hair out in the woods also have about a 1 in 2 chance of being decked out head-to-toe in camouflage or driving a lifted truck with a confederate flag sticker on the bumper.
The Urban Beardsman lifestyle is one that I, and many others, would immediately associate with progressive, forward-thinking people, so trying to emanate that in a place that’s naturally hostile toward change comes with a wide array of challenges. I can all but guarantee you that if you tried to hand a bottle of beard oil to a hunter or fisherman down here in the backwoods of Louisiana, 7/10 wouldn’t have any clue what it is, and the other three would laugh at you for suggesting they use a product that could even remotely be associated with improving their cosmetic appearance.
The unique challenge then – for beardsmen not only in Louisiana, but the whole southern region of the U.S. – is adjusting people’s perceptions toward the idea that men who care about their appearance and wear a beard can be just as masculine as the burly hunters and fishermen who dominate the bearded population of men below the Mason-Dixon line.
I bring my beard oil, comb and brush with me in my bag every day to work. Not that they’re always needed, but sometimes it’s nice to be able to freshen up my beard and keep things looking fresh and clean. Most beardsmen that read Urban Beardsman Magazine will be able to identify with that. Beardsmen of the previous generation, though, don’t, and by a pretty wide margin. Rather, they see beards as being rugged, unkempt and aggressively masculine.
Don’t get me wrong, beards can be those things, and often are, but we live in a time now when they don’t necessarily have to be. Until recently, 21st century urban men and 20th century traditional hunters and fishermen haven’t really been two groups that interact or co-mingle in any way. Now, millennials like myself are joining the professional work force, and in the deep south, businessmen almost always take a few weeks off every year for hunting and fishing season. We’re being forced to come to terms with one another, which is one of the reasons why I get strange looks every time I head to the bathroom with my brush and beard oil.
“Laissez les bon temps rouler.” Carefree living. No worries. That mindset permeates every aspect of life in Louisiana, for better or for worse. And like every other tradition and cultural element of this state, it’s in the blood, sweat and tears of every generation. We Urban Beardsmen are a different breed, and maybe on the surface we don’t jive with the attitude that beards should be unkempt and a visual cue to everyone around us that we’re carefree. We DO, however, know what it means to have a good time. We know what it means to enjoy the party and live the good life. It’s up to us to bridge that gap and show the world that we can maintain our appearance and let the good times roll.