Our Town: Welcome to the age of the long scraggily beard

Our Town: Welcome to the age of the long scraggily beard
"How does on explain the trend toward the long scraggily beard?" phoot by Tom Ferraro


In these strange gender-bending times, it’s odd to see so many young men sporting beards. I  began to notice this trend while shopping for a new computer at Best Buy last week.   With the exception of one Chinese guy, it seemed like all of the male salespeople and technical support staff had long beards. And I’m not talking about those neatly trimmed  beards that George Michaels made popular back in the late ’70s. The new beard look for young men is long, ugly and scruffy. Kind of like Grizzly Adams.

David Letterman may be partially responsible for this ugly beard trend.  Upon retirement from “The Late Show with David Letterman,” which aired for 30 years, he may have grown that beard to obtain some anonymity. This makes some sense to me.  But the sales clerks at Best Buy are certainly not trying to hide from the public. So why do they want to grow these things?

Maybe they hope to save some time in the morning. Shaving  takes at least 1 minute and 30 seconds. And the cost of buying razor blades is not cheap either. I think those new Harry’s Razors cost about $17 for the starter kit. As we add this up, growing a long beard does begin to make some sense.

The most persuasive reason given to explain this long ugly beard trend was expressed on Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” One of his guests (I don’t recall who) was wearing a beard and when Seinfeld asked him about it, he said “growing a beard is the last thing that men can do that women can’t do.”   Pretty funny.

The modern-day male identity is confused, embattled and in jeopardy. I have recently written about what they are calling “The Boy’s Crisis” on college campuses. Today there are more women in college than men and they are graduating in greater numbers than men.

Gender identity in high school is now fluid and the stats are alarming. In the 1960s  gender was defined as male or female with occasional mention of bisexuality or homosexuality. Teenagers had relatively simple choices. Today the number of options is staggering.  We begin with male vs. female or masculine vs, feminine. But that is only the beginning. Today gender can be agender, androgender, non-binary, bigender, pangender, gender expansive,  gender outlaw, gender queer, omnigender, masculine of center or two spirit. We  have bisexuality, homosexuality, and lesbianism, but I’m not certain if those categories are now too passe.   About 18% of teens consider themselves gender fluid whereas in the 1960s, only about 2%-3% were gender fluid.

I think today’s world is remarkably confusing for everyone and in every way. The overabundance of information and technological overload is seen at every turn. When I try to mail a large letter, I must answer a series of computer-driven questions on the post office pad about the content of the envelope, including whether it contains anything toxic, flammable or poisonous. The questions go on and on and we all must endure this nonsense.

And should one need to make a phone call to a company, you are in for a nightmare. After I ordered my computer from Best Buy, the installer discovered that the mother board was defective. I rescheduled the installation, they said they would come the following weekend. This did not occur and when I called the number to once again reschedule, I went through a series of seven different conversations with sales representatives in various parts of the world just trying to reschedule the installation. And thank god I am considered one of their “Premier” customers.

So in the end who can criticize these young  men who are growing long beards. My guess is they are valiantly holding onto some semblance of a sane, simple identity in a world that has far too many options, avenues and choices.   At least if they look in the mirror in the morning, they can say to themselves “OK, that’s me, my name is Johnny and  I’m a young man, a young man with a beard.”

Yes, LeBron James has an ugly beard, but he plays great ball. Shane Lowry has an odd- looking beard, but he has a great golf swing.  Gandalf’s beard was nasty, but he was a wizard. David Letterman’s beard is hideous, but he needs to hide from the public.

So we must say that those young men who like those long scraggily beards are at least holding bravely onto a semblance of their identity in this brave new world, which is far too complex and confusing  for any of us to understand.]

Dr. Tom Ferraro

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