It’s really no secret that human beings experience phases. It makes sense, when you think about it. As we grow and mature and learn more about ourselves, we make changes to how we live our lives – sometimes rather swiftly and dramatically. Nearly everyone reading this right now can think back and shudder at the image they have of themselves from middle school. Those ultra-formative years tend to do a number on kids as they trudge through puberty, and the cocktail of hormones their bodies have just served them often results in a lot of questionable fashion choices and copious levels of angst.
Phases like these don’t end in middle school, though. We tend to go through more of them, and at a faster clip during puberty, sure, but even beyond high school people have an innate tendency to attempt and redefine themselves. Whether this comes about because of a passing trend or because of pure, unadulterated curiosity, phases just happen – they come, and they go.
It’s no surprise, then, that the first or second time you let your beard show itself to the world for any significant length of time, people are going to accuse you of being in a phase. And, let’s be perfectly honest, for some men, having a beard WILL be a phase – and that’s okay. A phase doesn’t have to be a bad thing, or something you look back on with regret. That being said, for most of us Urban Beardsmen, our beards aren’t temporary and aren’t part of a phase. For us, beards are a part of our identity, and they’re here for the long haul.
I knew from a fairly young age that I wanted to grow a beard. I saw having a beard as wearing a badge you show to the world that says, “I made it to adulthood; I became a man.” When I first started growing facial hair, one summer in high school, I loved it. I felt masculine, I felt grown-up, and I felt like I finally had a unique, defining physical feature – something I wasn’t used to (I spent most of my youth lamenting at the fact that I simply just looked pretty average). I spent that summer dreading the day in August I would have to knock the dust off my razor and expose my skin to the harsh glow of the fluorescent lights at my high school.
Once I walked across the stage at my high school graduation in May of 2010, I’ve only been completely shaven a handful of times. As a matter of fact, I might argue that in the last six years, going completely shaven was more indicative of a phase than my beard was. It never lasted very long, and I got mostly negative reactions to it (aside from my mother, but that’s an entirely different story). What happened, I think, is that my beard and I became synonymous with one another. My friends and colleagues viewed my beard as a part of my visual identity – and I liked that. Having a beard felt right, and not having one just felt strange.
Still, though, I have people tell me that my beard is a phase (mostly my relatives, let’s be honest). They always provide me with myriad reasons that I’ll HAVE to shave one day, too. They tell me that the generation before me, the people most likely to hire me or manage me, don’t appreciate the free-spirited nature of wearing a beard and I’ll have to shave to appeal to their sensibilities. They tell me that if I want to be taken seriously in the business world, I’ll eventually have to shave. It’s always accompanied by a tone of, “enjoy it now while you’re just starting out and people don’t care if you look unprofessional.”
And they say all this despite my repeated attempts to redirect their misguided prejudice against beards. I tell them about all the successful businessmen who wear beards. I tell them about how beards are becoming increasingly accepted in the working world. I tell them about all the prevailing knowledge that says beards are here to stay. I tell them all this and I still get the same condescending head shakes and eye rolls.
This can obviously be frustrating. It can feel absolutely defeating to be told that your success may be hindered by something as admittedly trivial as facial hair. What’s even more defeating is that in some cases, they’re right. There are those people who hold high rank in businesses that WILL turn down men for jobs solely because they wear a beard, and that’s a shame. In today’s world of continued erasure of racism, homophobia, body shaming and other similar afflictions of the ignorant and weak-minded, it’s a letdown to us beardsmen that some might still judge us for our choice to grow a beard.
While we almost certainly don’t experience nearly the same level of prejudice as the aforementioned targets of ignorance and hate (let’s have some perspective), we can take a page from the victims of prejudice around the world and simply choose to rise above it and fight it with positivity and the spread of knowledge.
If someone tells you that your beard is just another phase, or tells you that your beard will keep you from achieving the things you want to achieve, do your best to educate them and reassure them of your commitment to the bearded lifestyle. Then, if they’re still not convinced, brush it off and move on. You’re not growing your beard for them. You’re growing it for you, and that’s all you need. If there are some inherent risks with growing a beard, then accept that as a fact and tackle them head-on. You’re a man, and you can make your own choices.
Life is too short and too full of stress to draw the line of what’s acceptable at facial hair. If wearing a beard makes you happy; if wearing a beard is part of who you are, then fuck it – grow your beard and don’t look back.