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Face spinach

Angus Stone: Lazy or wanker?

Angus Stone: Lazy or wanker?

You know the whole facial hair thing has got out of hand when our august National Portrait Gallery in Canberra jumps in on the act.

Its latest exhibition, curated by Joanne Gilmour, is titled Jo's Mo Show (with Beards), a collection of more than 60 portraits illustrating 200 years of Aussie face spinach, from Captain Cook to poet Henry Lawson, actor Errol Flynn to cricketer Max Walker.

Part of the arrogance of being alive is we forget those who came before us were quite similar, thus fashion has always made a statement about who a person thinks they are, and it's also been very much the case with facial hair.

A case in point is how centuries of bad-arse beard-wearing went out the door in the 1700s, when growing whiskers was "likely to cast one into the category of eccentric, insane or otherwise unreasoned and ungoverned", according to the exhibition's website.

The British then imported the idea to our shores that shaving was the mark of a "civilised man", while they butchered the indigenous population. One astonished blackfella even "wanted to know of what sex we were ... as they took us for women, not having our beards grown", said Phillip Gidley King, the third governor of NSW, in 1788.

By the mid 1800s, fashion had flipped, with "beards considered an outward, physical expression of the masculine attributes most prized in Victorian times". It then flopped again during the war years of the 1900s, when going clean shaven was the mark of a brave soldier and a pencil-thin mo, the province of men aping matinee idols such as Errol Flynn.

So what does the resurgence of beards in the noughties say about Aussie men now?

Gilmore puts a tad too much thought into it, if you ask me, saying on the exhibition's website: "Some suggest beards and moustaches ... have re-emerged in response to the social conservatism of the ... Bush/Howard eras.

"Others locate the 21-century's fluidity of gender distinctions ... and the corresponding reclamation and renegotiation of traditional masculine roles and virtues - as a basis for the beard's re-emergence."

Really? I reckon it's down to two factors: laziness and pretension. In my neighbourhood, you can pretty much split beard wearers into those two broad categories, aka, slobs and wankers.

I'd humbly submit my attempts at a beard fall into the first group because, like many guys, I hate shaving and don't have an office job where my lack of grooming can be used as a barometer of my cleanliness, competency or commitment.

I reckon the vast majority of beard wearers start in this camp but, after a while, a certain type of dude gets bored and looks for something different. I'm sure this is how the old-school beard styles in the National Portrait Gallery's exhibition - such as the "Parkes", "Barkley" and "Lambert" - began.

But know this: once you spend more time grooming a beard than you would shaving, you've veered dangerously into wanker territory.

American comedian Adam Carolla describes this bloke as one who cultivates a razor-thin "stripe going ear to ear and over the top of his upper lip".

"Never have more calories been spent achieving a worse look. Why would somebody cultivate a look that required an extra hour in the mirror each morning? Exactly. It's because this narcissistic f--- gets to stare at his Jersey Shore ass for an extra hour in the mirror," says Carolla.

In the coming month, thanks to the superb fund-raising efforts of Movember, tens of thousands of Aussie men will come "face to face" with this choice as they sculpt stubble into a statement about who they are or, perhaps, who they'd like to be.

But no matter what they come up with, remember ... it's all been done before.

Sam de Brito's latest novel Hello Darkness is in bookstores now. You can follow him on Twitter here.

10 comments so far

  • I agree most guys who I've known to grow facial hair are wankers.

    However there are older Aussie types like John Williamson where it suits them and they're not wankers.

    Commenter
    Fred
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    November 14, 2011, 4:28PM
    • My mate form the inner west was heaping scorn on 'Bondi wankers', when I said I was moving back Bondi way. When I questioned him on this, his response made me giggle.

      "They're all bloody upside down heads.... with jeans and thongs", I looked at him quizzically - he said "You know, upside down heads; shaved heads with beards', I loved it. And I now notice these types quite a bit in Bondi.

      Commenter
      katea
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      November 14, 2011, 4:46PM
      • Most people I know with facial hair are lazy. Then again, most people I know are lazy.

        Once I had a hefty beard going on in the summer time, and the combination of spilled beer and sweat made it rather smelly, so I shampooed it.

        Then I realised I had just shampooed a beard. So I shaved it.

        Although, if I could grow a Galifianakisesque homage to masculinity, I would. I can't pull it off though.

        Commenter
        hired goon
        Location
        heartbreak city
        Date and time
        November 14, 2011, 5:39PM
        • I have to admit to generally finding facial hair unappealing - at least when it's been grown without any attempt at grooming (a bit like other areas, but I guess that's not the subject of this blog).

          A nicely maintained 3-5 day growth however is very manly and can be super-hot. Also guys with weak chins usually look better with a beard.

          Not that I'm in a position to be too judgmental. Just my 'druthers.

          Commenter
          Patty the PlainPlumpSpinster
          Location
          plainplumpspinster.wordpress.com
          Date and time
          November 14, 2011, 6:09PM
          • Bushranger beards or GTFO! Warren Ellis has nailed this look.

            Commenter
            Robert
            Location
            Point Cook
            Date and time
            November 14, 2011, 8:29PM
            • 1 - I save tons on razors (because electric shavers don't work with my sort of hair). 2. Beards suite me. 3 I'm a natural sort of beard grower. 3. Any woman who claims 'Beards are gross' because its may like more effeminate men who lack tesosterone because fellas, if you got a pair, you'll grow hair all over the place. 4. People - men and women who bitch about beards or other natural elements of the human body (though grooming is ok) - are mostly just victims of what society now considers to be 'pretty'. Sad really.

              Commenter
              Dunn
              Date and time
              November 14, 2011, 9:01PM
              • I have a full beard now. Have had a goatee most of my adult life.

                If it could become unpopular again that would be fine with me.

                I fall within the slob category. Caring about that could make me a better person but frankly I dont give a crap what people think of me.

                Commenter
                Citizen Rat
                Date and time
                November 14, 2011, 9:22PM
                • Wow, 42 years to realise I'm a wanker. Actually no, I think I'd sussed that some time beforehand.

                  sideburns, mustache, goatee. Personally I think they suit my head. The sidies were grown for a friends' 21st birthday (70s party) and I just decided to keep them, particularly after walking into a pub in Bourke one night and hearing "owyagoin Elvis" from a very amused local.

                  The rest sprouted a few years later when backpacking. When I got back home a few girls commented favourably, which was an unusual experience for me, so it's stayed.

                  No grooming required really, just trim any particularly straggly bits (and the white hairs that've started making a takeover bid). Does it take me longer than a full shave? Not really, maybe 2 minutes more.

                  I did the full beard once, aged 19 or 20, when the blokes in my office held a beard growing competition. It looked shocking, I resembled Derryn Hinch, and of course I had a job interview in the middle of it and Mum wanted a photo of me in a suit (being the first time I'd ever worn one!). That bloody photo lived on top of the piano for years. Getting rid of the thing was excruciating and ensured I never grew one again.

                  Oh and Angus Stone proves your wanker theory.

                  Commenter
                  Stormy
                  Location
                  Cumberland Oval
                  Date and time
                  November 14, 2011, 9:32PM
                  • I grew a Barassi/ Demon cross in 1980. Kept it on for about 27 years.
                    It got harder and more of a hassle to trim and keep it neat.
                    It was grey in the end, yes I am old.
                    What I grew to make me look older in my 20's became my look for so many years.
                    I feel free after getting rid of it.
                    Sadly it did not make me look better then and its absence doesn't make me look any better now.
                    It is up to you, try it and raise some money in November.
                    It does take about a year to get it looking right.

                    Commenter
                    The Old Guy
                    Location
                    Marrickville
                    Date and time
                    November 14, 2011, 10:34PM
                    • Not a fan. Face spinach =Try hard, unless your 80 and over.

                      Commenter
                      Sitting on the fence
                      Location
                      Sydney
                      Date and time
                      November 14, 2011, 11:34PM

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