Beard Extremism

I have a big beard. If that comes as a shock to you, then you’re either a first-time visitor to the site, or you’ve never seen the TitleBeard Instagram feed (it’s@TitleBeard, by the way, come check it out). When August 1, 2015 rolls around I will have been growing my beard for three years. I’m no stranger to facial hair, having had some form of it since I was 15 or 16, but this is by far the longest beard I’ve ever had. Here are some random stats I’ve compiled along the way:

  • Current beard length: 14 inches
  • Inches lost to trimming (estimated): 3-4
  • Published product reviews (by company): 37
  • Total number of products reviewed: 100+/-
  • Total number of posts (including this one): 283
  • Captain’s Logs: 35
  • Average number of beard products I use on a daily basis: 4
  • Beard competitions I’ve competed in: 5
  • Beard competitions I’ve judged: 3
  • Beard competitions I’ve hosted: 1
  • Duck Dynasty references: Too many to count

Man With Gray Beard
The carpenter Karl August Andersson, at Sabbatsberg Old People's Home. Born in 1859.

One of the things that has been present since nearly day one and ranges on my annoyance scale from a little to quite a lot is what I refer to as beard extremism. You probably know what I’m talking about even if you don’t call it by the same name. It ranges from the guy who says things like “if you shave your face, you should probably shave your vagina too”, to any number of popular memes with the same type of message, to people who say that if your significant other or employer doesn’t like or approve of your beard that you should leave that person or job.

I don’t care if you have a beard, moustache, or any facial hair at all. I don’t judge manliness or worth on a scale of how much facial hair someone has or doesn’t have. Rather, I judge people (yes, I’m judgmental) based on how they present themselves, how they treat others, and the way they live their lives.

The Shaving Conundrum

Let’s start with shaving. For those of you who don’t consider shaving a manly exercise, think back to the time when you couldn’t wait to shave because it meant you were growing up; it was an early sign of manhood. Shaving is still one of the manliest undertakings there is, and shaving with a straight razor is downright awesome. If I were inclined to shave, I would learn to do so with a straight razor because in the shaving world, I don’t think you can get much manlier than that (unless you’re shaving with a Bowie knife or an axe, in which case, I salute you).

Now let’s look at shaving in the bigger picture. Some shave because they want to, for employment and/or safety reasons, or because their
significant other likes it. I say “Good for them!” If you shave, I don’t care why, that’s your choice. I respect your decision to shave just as I expect you to respect my decision to grow a beard. I also respect the people who simply can’t grow a beard. Not everyone has the genetics – it doesn’t make you less of a man, it’s just how it is.

Beard Groups on Facebook

I’m a member of a number of beard groups on Facebook (and I have a TitleBeard Facebook page by the way – you should Like that) and in any number of those groups the question inevitably comes up, “I’m going to interview for a new job/promotion – should I shave” or “My employer has changed their policy on beards – should I shave to stay employed?” It boggles my mind the amount of responses where people throw out “Nope, you should just quit bro.” That’s ridiculous. In this day and age where gainful employment is often scarce, why would you suggest that someone not do whatever they can to get or stay employed to support themselves and their families?

Facial Hair in the Workplace

Taking a look at the employment situation as a whole, there are a number of careers where bearded men not only work, but thrive. I have been a licensed attorney since 2007 and I practiced as a partner in a small firm from roughly 2009-2014. I had some form of facial hair for the entirety of my employment, and started growing my beard as it is in August 2012. I appeared in state and federal court with a big beard and while I know some of my colleagues saw my beard in a negative light, there were plenty who didn’t, and more importantly, even more who simply didn’t care. They knew a beard was not a sign of whether or not I was a good attorney.

I know doctors with big beards, marketers, business owners, professors, tattoo artists, contractors, construction workers, electricians – the list goes on. However, there are still plenty of careers where facial hair is seen as a no-no, sometimes in any form, more often when it’s facial hair of any length beyond face-length or slightly longer.

Where beard extremism becomes a problem is trying to change these perceptions. Facial hair and professionalism do not have to be mutually exclusive, but until the beard community as a whole recognizes that the way to acceptance is not steamrolling our opposition with ridiculous messages, it isn’t going to change.

Let’s Work Together

Instead, we should band together. Show the professional world that people with big beards can be professional too. We continue the good work we’re doing in our careers and make people realize that a big beard is no more a sign of one’s worth than are tattoos or piercings. Do your job, and do it well, and make people realize that you’re indispensable, beard and all.

In the meantime, don’t harass people who don’t shave, and for those of you who do choose to shave, don’t harass those who have facial hair. With the amount of serious issues facing the world today, it is absolutely ludicrous that anyone should care whether or not someone has facial hair. Unless facial hair or a lack thereof would raise a safety issue, there shouldn’t even be a discussion.

I appreciate a good beard meme as much as the next bearded guy, especially truly funny ones like what Bearded Gospel Men put out, and I recognize that many times, comments like the one I mentioned at the beginning are said in jest. I love my beard and I think if you can grow a beard, you should. I’m not going to be mad if you don’t – I just think you need to experience what I’ve experienced over the past few years and see what fun having a big beard can bring.

This article was originally published on and is reprinted here in its entirety with permission.