by Allan D. Peterkin
ONE THOUSAND BEARDS is available in better bookstores in Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Australia (March 2002). If you have problems locating a copy, contact the publisher, Arsenal Pulp Press.
FROM THE INTRODUCTION:
Beards arrive uninvited at puberty, marking a celebrated progression into manhood, but whether they are permitted or even obliged to grow has, until the 20th century, been determined by class, religious beliefs, community precedent, and occupational status.
The ancient Egyptians, for instance, viewed hairlessness as an indication of divinity. Only the poor manifested any signs of scruffiness, but that didnít prevent the upper crust from putting on fake beards when the occasion called for it. Periodically in European history, beards were taxed and forcibly removed if one were not upper class or spiritual enough to sport one. Over the span of 5,000 years, chin growths have been purchased, elaborately adorned, dyed, and even deracinated as a form of torture. I learned that the goatees I had just started noticing had actually burst onto the scene in the mid-1950s. The variety of combinations of moustaches, sideburns, soul patches, and beards are virtually endless, as worn by modern men of all classes and ages and social affiliations. Not since Victorian times have male faces been so adorned.
What are the unconscious reasons we wear beards? Why are so many associations dark, diabolical or subversive? What's the ritualistic symbolism of shaving? What about the gay beard? Gender-bending facial hair, bearded ladies, drag kings? If certain beards are archetypal (like Santa or Satan), then what are all of us modern guys saying with our hairy Rorschachs, and why now? Is it rebellion, conformity, or a half-hearted compromise between the two? Do women like beards? Did they ever? What's the post-modern, post-feminist meaning of facial hair? Why are advertisers increasingly using furry models? I was determined to find out, even if it meant asking people on the street and peering at my own face in the mirror as it grew author-fuzz.....