Arts & Entertainment
6 min

Beards are back

Where did all this hair come from?

Oskar Credit: Matthieu Burgard

If 2009 ended on a typically waxed and hairless note, the last few months have seen copious amounts of facial and body hair sprout in the gay community.

Suddenly the sea of twinks in the Davie Village has parted and a whole lot of hitherto un-hairy guys have emerged — with beards.

Even Mr Gay World 2010, visiting Whistler’s WinterPride for the first time this March, noticed the fuzz.

“I always thought the gay scene was the same across the world,” Charl van den Berg told Xtra. “I was completely proven wrong when I came to Canada. Guys are guys’ guys here — I’ve never seen so many beards in my life.”

Neither have we, until recently.

What’s going on? In a post-AIDS culture known for its obsession with health and youthful beauty, sculpted muscles and hairless definition, why the sudden tufts of fur?

“As gay guys can be more adventurous, they have always been at the forefront of new looks,” says Allan Peterkin, a Toronto psychiatrist and co-author of The Bearded Gentleman.

Of course, beards are hardly new territory for the bears among us who have always embraced their masculinity — not to mention their bodies’ natural tendencies.

But for twinks, the trend marks a definite departure.

Not necessarily, says Peterkin.

Facial hair trends go in cycles, he explains, even as he acknowledges that “the full beard is something that hasn’t been done for a long time.”

Today’s take on the full beard “is very playful,” he says. “You grow it with a scent of masculinity, of maturity and of irony to mean ‘I don’t take myself too seriously.’”

Peterkin thinks the recent shift to a more masculine look may be a bit of a backlash to the gay culture of the 1980s, where everyone was so clean-shaven, top to bottom.

Robert Graham is also well versed in matters of man-scaping. He too has observed “a bit of a movement toward the more bohemian aspect of life, which coincides with a more natural appearance — and sometimes includes tattooing and piercing.”

In Graham’s modern-day barbershop, Momentum Grooming, the most common beard is currently the close-cropped full beard with very clean and distinct edges.

“The length of the facial hair is -often determined by the pattern and fullness of growth. Men with darker beards tend to have it cut closer to the skin, whereas fairer men leave it a bit longer,” he says.

Does this new, tightly cropped beard suggest a compromise between the more virile look of hot manly stubble and the manicured metrosexual look?

“This new facial hair praise goes across cultures, ages, and reaches straights and gays,” says Peterkin. “It’s kind of a universal expression.”

In other words, the new beard -mania is hardly unique to Davie St.

“It is a definite hipster or artistic aesthetic and is visible in most cities around the world, especially Brooklyn, NYC,” says Chad Taylor, co-owner of Moods hair salon in Yaletown and winner of the Top Canadian Hairstylist 2010.

“It appears that facial hairstyles on men seem to follow an 8–10 year cycle, with the most recent one being the goatee,” says Graham. “We fully expect the beard to last about the same amount of time, but are now [already] seeing people put some unique spins on it, and even incorporating some designs.”

“As the summer months kick in, the dedication to this look wavers,” Taylor notes. “A simple swipe of a razor, the wearer can take away a lot of unnecessary heat and itchiness.”

It’s not too late to join the beard nation. But like any trend, it’s not for everyone. “It’s worth trying, but if it looks patchy and pubescent, or makes you look like Charles Manson, maybe rethink it,” Taylor suggests.

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BEARDS ARE BACK

With Facebook fanpages devoted to “gay boys with beards,” Xtra decided to take a completely unscientific poll of our own. We found some hot hairiness on Davie St and asked them to explain their facial fur.

OSKAR

Why did you grow a beard?
Without it, I look younger.

Do you think you look wiser, manlier, sexier?
I look older, like mature.

Do you think you have more sex appeal?
In the gay world, the bearded guys look manlier and straighter.

Any new sensations with a beard?
When it’s too long, it doesn’t feel really good. It’s going to scratch. But kissing, it’s totally different. You really feel the jaws… aaahh.

QUINN

Why did you grow a beard?
I’ve had a beard since I was a teenager. I’m pretty used to having a beard. If I do shave it to a goatee, it’s for a costume, for a reason. I never have no facial hair.

Do you think you look wiser, manlier, sexier?
Probably manlier, probably a bit sexier and definitely older. It says I have a sensitive side, and also a manly side.

Do you think you have more sex appeal?
Oh yeah, for sure. I think when I don’t have a beard, I look like I’m 12 years old. I’ve never had anyone say, “You look better without a beard.”

Any new sensations with a beard?

I like the feeling of another beard rubbing against mine.

VICTOR

Why did you grow a beard?
Because people tell me it looks good on me. And it goes with my facial expressions, and it makes me look a little more virile. And I do like how it looks on me. It goes with my personality, I guess.

Do you think you look wiser, manlier, sexier?
I know it makes me look a little bit sexier. When I shave, I feel younger. You know, it changes your whole personality and your whole physical appearance.

Do you think you have more sex appeal?

I think so, but I don’t know.

Any new sensations with a beard?
It feels a little bit itchy sometimes. I’m lucky to have the ability to grow a full beard. I mean, so many guys would like to have it and it doesn’t grow evenly and fully.

MAXIME

Why did you grow a beard?
I feel more mature and sexy and more naughty, actually. The beard is also an accessory that goes with my style. I find these old pictures of guys in shorts with body and facial hair very sexy.

Do you think you look wiser, manlier, sexier?
Each time I shave now, I feel nude and not sexy anymore. But I love changing my facial hair features. Sometimes I have a mustache, sometimes a beard. Sometimes it gives me an ’80s style, other times a more reassuring and mature look.

Do you think you have more sex appeal?

Yes, I think I have more success with guys. They like me clean-shaven, but generally they prefer me with a beard.

THOMAS

Why did you grow a beard?
I’ve always had a beard, since I was 15. The last time I shaved, it was for the operation of my wisdom teeth.

Do you think you look wiser, manlier, sexier?
Without my beard, my cheeks are bigger. I look like a baby. But with facial hair I look more mature and, therefore, more attractive to men. Before going out, I shave right around and I remake the contours, you know, the upper part above the cheeks and the hair over my throat.

Do you think you have more sex appeal?

Definitely, because with a beard you look more virile and mature. More experienced…

Any new sensations with a beard?
I like to feel another beard next to mine. Not really for having sex, but for hugs and kisses.


ANDRÉ

Why did you grow a beard?
Because I don’t feel like shaving. Not by laziness. It’s just a relaxed attitude towards growing.

Do you think you look wiser, manlier, sexier?
I just feel relaxed…. It’s easier just having a beard and being okay [with] hair on your face.

Do you think you have more sex appeal?

Perhaps. Sometimes, not always. It depends who the other person is. I prefer with beard.

Any new sensations with a beard?
No, I don’t even think about it being on my face.


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TRIMMING TIPS

Allan Peterkin and his co-author, Nick Burns, offer many tips on how to find your best pattern and maintain your beard. (They also tell you how to shave it all off painlessly when the trend fizzles!)

Here are a few tips adapted from the book:

1 Stop shaving for the first 4–6 weeks to see where and how your beard grows.

2 Don’t focus on making sharp, straight lines, but always control the thickness.

3 Trim your beard when it’s dry and start above your jaw, from your chin to your ear.
   
4 For the edges, follow the line of the jaw, where the skin of your neck meets the skin of your chin.

5 Use beard or hair conditioner to soften your beard and make it shine.

— from The Bearded Gentleman: The Style Guide to Shaving Face. For more tips check out beardedgentleman.com