Up in Northern climates, the faint sound of clippers shearing off wintry beards is a sure sign of spring. Amy Walker from Momentum magazine relates a recent February trip to Minneapolis, where she encountered bicyclists sporting facial hair mops. For these guys, beards and mustaches are highly practical when biking in sub-zero temps in the dead of winter. It may only be coincidence that "handlebar" can connote a mustache and a bicycle part.
Walker says the beard is more than a symbol of practicality; the hair style represents wisdom and continues an “ancient and venerable tradition.” She quotes the UK website Beard Care:
Wise men always seem to have long, grey beards, so people who want to seem sage usually grow one. At least, the wise men of Islam, Judaism and Greek Orthodox Christianity - the Pope is clean-shaven because Roman Catholic clergy shave as a sign of celibacy. Confucius had a beard, and he was wise too. The Bible has a commandment against shaving - actually, against touching razor to face - so Jews who religiously observe the Bible don't touch razor to face. Luckily, in modern times, it is perfectly possible to shave without a razor touching the face, and many do. Muslims disagree over how important beards are, so some wear them, and some don't. Sikhs don't cut any hair, so the beard sort of happens by default. Amish shave until marriage, and then grow a beard and sideburns.
Want more beard? The annual World Beard and Mustache Competition is set for Anchorage, Alaska this year in May. Make sure to check out some of the previous year’s winners, especially the partial freestyle category, in which NPR’s Robert Siegel dubbed the winning contestant’s entry a “hair pretzel”.
Image by ibikempls.com courtesy of Mark Emery