Springingtiger's Blog


Hurrah For The Hirsute

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The big news of late is that not only has Jeremy Paxman grown a beard, as he usually does on his holidays, but that he is thinking of keeping it. He has introduced many of us to the term “pogonophobia” (an abnormal fear of beards) unlike Paxman most of us didn’t know that. What is more amazing is what an issue it has all become. Thursday’s Daily Mail had pieces by both John MacLeod and Simon Heffer on the subject of Paxman’s beard, but other papers too have felt it necessary to voice opinions and, needless to say (so why an I saying it?) it had been trending on Twitter. The one thing that cannot be denied is that it had been a masterful piece of self advertising on Paxman’s part.

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John MacLeod’s piece was quite derogatory about beards and suggested they are an indication of depravity and incompetence. He suggested that beards detract from someone’s authority, an idea which would come as a surprise, not only to the many Sikh officers in the Indian armed forces, but also to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. MacLeod suggests that the beard wearers of yesteryear did so because of the lack of easily available hot water for shaving. Personally I am inclined to think our current lack of facial hair is symptomatic of a generation whose appearance is dictated by women. While I accept that a woman has a right to an opinion on how her man dresses, left to himself, I suspect many men would be hairy.

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Facial hair has an honorable history, for centuries prophets, holy men and kings have worn beards. In Shakespeare’s day the only males who did not have beards were the immature and eunuchs. I have already mentioned the beards worn by Sikhs, Islam also encourages beard wearing but with a trimmed moupstache. There was a time when facial hair was common in the armed forces and in paintings of the Napoleonic Wars lend a ferocity to many a soldiers face beneath a bearskin. When I was a pupil in Giggleswick School I remember being impressed by the facial hair of some of the Victorian headmasters and benefactors, no one could have accused them of lacking authority.

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Facial hair is a distinguishing feature of a grown man, it separates him from hairless boys, it lends character to the face. I congratulate Jeremy Paxman on the stand he has taken, it is time we reinstated facial hair, whether mutton chops, beards or moustaches as a sign of maturity, sophistication and good taste. Let us drive the beardless children from the corridors of power and replace them with men who have experience of the world and the whiskers to show for it. Razors away, chaps!

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