We’ve all experienced beard-envy. Let’s face it – some people just can’t handle their jealousy for the manliest of all male grooming options. . But have you ever been laughed at for your beard? Or told that you can’t have one? If you don’t want to even imagine a world so cruel, you might want to avoid Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
BYU, and all other schools owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, have had a ban on beards since the late 60's. Strangely, mustaches are totally fine, making the BYU campus look like a mix between a school choir and a 70's music video.
Students have ironically pointed out that Jesus had an epic beard. So did Brigham Young, the leader that the school is named after. This doesn’t seem to matter to the school’s administration, which some students have said is getting stricter.
Paulo Quezada, a student at LDS Business College, another church-owned school in Utah, was recently forced to wear a name tag proving he had a “beard card,” a pass that allows students to have beards for skin conditions and special circumstances. In his case, he was preparing to act in a movie about the Bible.
After a day of wearing what he called a “badge of shame” he shaved it completely off. Students were openly mocking him. “They literally stopped, they pointed and they laughed,” he said. “I couldn’t take it anymore.”
Not everyone with a beard card has such negative experiences. “I’ve had a beard here for three years and no one has ever asked me for my card,” says David Dixon. Regardless of how they’re treated, most bearded students agree that the red tape involved is annoying. Caleb Thompson is worried that renewing his card will be harder since the recent attention to the topic. Another student, who wishes to remain anonymous, got his card by shaving dry for three days to purposefully cause skin irritation and fake a skin condition.
BYU student with an approved beard
Most bearded students agree that the ban is frustrating. But how did it start?
During the counterculture movement of the 60s, school and church leaders, led by the University President Ernest L. Wilkinson, saw a lot of bearded men at protests and thought there was a relationship between beards and cultural “undesirables.” This sentiment led to the implementation of the BYU beard ban. However, the ban wasn’t a religious edict. Beards are allowed in the LDS church. It was a university-specific grooming policy aimed at eliminating rebelliousness on campus. Ernest Wilkinson said:
“At this institution we must resist even the appearance, not only of evil, but also of the emulation of undesirable contemporary characters.”
Quoted in “Sounding Board,” Daily Universe, 12 Nov. 1968
A few years later, the following President of the University, Dallin H. Oaks, further clarified the beard ban:
“In the minds of most people at this time, the beard and long hair are associated with protest, revolution, and rebellion against authority. They are also symbols of the hippie and drug culture.” Oaks further went on to say, “…Our rules against beards and long hair are contemporary and pragmatic…The rules are subject to change, and I would be surprised if they were not changed at some time in the future.”
Dallin Oaks, Standards of Dress and Grooming, 1971
But so far nothing has changed. The infamous “Beard Ban” has been in effect ever since. But now, almost 50 years later, a couple of groups are trying to put an end to it.
It won’t be easy. A group called Bike for Beards has led bike-protests around Provo while wearing paper-cut-out beards. Their efforts have made national news, but so far have not resulted in any policy change. Another group, Beards for BYU, has 700 signatures on a petition to loosen the ban, but the university has not responded.
Neither group is calling for an outright removal of the ban. “I don’t think the school would go for that,” says Kenny Larsen, founder of Beards for BYU. “I think asking to allow only well-groomed beards is more realistic.”
So let’s all have a moment of silence for our beard-brothers in Utah. Gentlemen, we stroke our beards as we salute you.
Editor’s Note: To support Beards for BYU, visit their Facebook page.