Beards come in all shapes and sizes, and their colors are as diverse as the spectrum. They’re a natural form of self-expression, freedom, and independence; and a symbol of strength, wisdom, and maturity. They keep us warm in the winter and cool in the summer. They protect us from the elements and provide us with a soft place to rest our hands while we ponder the complexities of the universe and the meaning of life. We were given beards for a reason, and rather than shy away from the man I was created to be, I’ve decided to embrace it and live a life that may be a source of encouragement and inspiration to others. My name is John Tidwell, and this is my beard story.
When I was a child I remember looking up to my father and thinking he was somehow different from other dads. He was hard-working and stern, while still managing to be very loving and fun. He was known throughout the community and seemed to know something about everything. But beyond that, it seemed to me that even if you didn’t know him you would recognize him as someone to be revered and respected. It didn’t dawn on me until years later that it had a lot to do with his beard.
He was a man’s man; a hunter, a fisherman, and a gun collector. We even had our own family business cutting trees, so you can throw in the lumberjack label as well. He was over six feet tall and had a dark, reddish tan from years of working in the sun. But above all, his bushy grey and white beard stood out to me more than anything. It was a defining characteristic of who he was. We, my father and my older brothers, were a family of bearded men. We took pride in our facial hair and it meant something to have it; almost as a rite of passage to becoming a man. Not that you have to have a great beard to be a great man, but it doesn’t hurt either.
I found it difficult at times growing up in the shadow of my father. I didn’t take to the outdoors man lifestyle as much my siblings and, as a result, I ended up spending more time at home with my mom and younger sister than out hunting in the woods. I loved being outside and taking in all of the natural beauty that the world has to offer, but I never felt compelled to wake up before dawn to enjoy it. So, over time, I developed more of an interest in things like video games, comics, basketball, and some musical tastes that weren’t exactly main stream. A lot of this was just part of my generation, but mostly it was about me trying to find my own identity while not completely alienating myself from my peers at the same time. As the years rolled by my father and I seemed to grow apart in some ways. I could tell it was getting more difficult for us to relate to each other, as we were separated by 35 years of age and had different interests and hobbies. One thing we did have though was our common bond through beardedness. And we still have that to this day.
When I was in college I worked nights at United Parcel Service (UPS). It was a great part time job and I was very motivated and quickly moved up the ranks. I had been sporting a goatee since high school, but I would soon have to let that go as I was promoted to a supervisory position and UPS had strict guidelines on facial hair for management and drivers (short, trimmed mustaches were the only exception). During my three-and-a-half years as supervisor I never felt quite like myself. Having to remain completely shaven all the time was emasculating to me and I would often get reprimanded for my beard stubble by the higher ups. When I left the company shortly after graduating there was only one critique I offered during my exit interview; that the men should be allowed to wear beards. The HR rep laughed at me for stating that, but I wasn’t really joking.
I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do as a career after that, but I did know that I wanted to work somewhere that would allow me to grow a beard. After finally settling into a full-time job I mostly played it safe and kept a thin, neatly trimmed beard for the better part of 10 years. Then, last year I began to experiment a little and decided to grow a handlebar mustache. It was a great experience all-around and was definitely worth the effort that I put into it. Seeing the grin on people’s faces when they saw me was very amusing, especially the heartwarming responses from young children. But even when I had the handlebar I couldn’t bring myself to let my beard go completely. So, I marched on for several months until I grew tired of the attention the ‘stache generated, and the daily maintenance it required, and snipped it off rather unceremoniously. However, my desire to have extraordinary facial hair never quite subsided.
A few months later, in the summer of this year, I stumbled upon some images of bearded gentlemen like Luke Ditella and Levi Stocke. Men with exceptional facial hair that was exquisitely well-groomed. They had clean, well-defined, healthy looking beards that could straddle the fence of being both masculine and professional at the same time. This piqued my curiosity and opened up my mind to a realm of new possibilities. I knew that genes were the primary factor in having a great beard, but I could also tell that there was something else at play here. After doing a little research I discovered a plethora of beard products that I never knew existed. I must have spent weeks reading up on all the various oils, balms, waxes, brushes, combs, and grooming tips. If I was going to pursue this I wanted to make sure I was making an educated purchase and following the best practices.
I read several articles trying to determine which product to try. There were loyal advocates for multiple brands and I eventually came to the realization that there were many excellent products out there, so my decision on whom to support would have to go beyond what was in a 1oz. bottle. I needed to find someone with a vision and passion that matched my own; one that valued the same ideals and beliefs about beards that I did. Someone who realized that beards aren’t just a collection of hair follicles that forms on the lower half of a face, but a conscientious lifestyle choice. Enter Beardbrand.
After reading numerous product reviews and several articles on Urban Beardsman, I had finally found what I was looking for. Beardbrand’s philosophy and marketing strategy set them apart from the competition in my eyes. Everything from founder Eric Bandholz’s vision for the company to the labeling on the products made it clear that this was the brand for me and what I wanted to represent. I ordered some oil, mustache wax, and a boar’s hair brush; followed Eric’s helpful YouTube tips; and have been extremely satisfied with the results. I must mention that using oils and so forth will not produce a miracle on your face; it simply enhances what you already have. I still have a ways to go myself, and I may never be a beard model, but I’m well on my way to achieving the distinguished beard that I dreamed about having one day.
I love being a part of a community of men who can come together, in spite of our varying beliefs, and unite over a common interest. I understand that everyone isn’t as passionate about beards as I am. And I know that there are some of us out there who, due to our profession, genetic makeup, or personal preferences won’t have one. We’re all created differently and we all have our own choices to make. I’m not suggesting that every man should have a beard. But if you can grow one, and you want to grow one, grow one. Don’t let societal pressures or inhibitions prevent you from going after your goals. To be connected to a group of people who understand who you and what you’re about without any explanations or justifications is very comforting. You won’t be alone. I’m here for you. We’re here for you. And as an Urban Beardsman might say, Beard On!
About the Author
John D. Tidwell is a family man, gamer, beard and mustache grower, and overall dreamer. He resides in Montgomery, Alabama. Twitter: @JohnDTidwell