In Full Bloom

Everything you ever wanted to know about hipster beards (and then some), from our very own Nitai Ben-Shach, Nick Charleton, and Calvin Hancock

By: Lisana Nithiananthan (2L) and Tali Green (2L)

In Full Bloom

THE BEARD ITSELF

I’ve heard the hipster beard is a symbol of protest against “the establishment”, but it seems bearded hipsters all look the same – nice button down shirt, tight, short but stylish pants, no socks, and semi-formal shoes. With all this conformity, how is the hipster beard really anti-establishment?

Calvin: Whether you’re going with or against a trend, you’re still directed by the trend, right? We’re all conforming to something. This way just allows me to look dashing and spend less time getting ready every morning

Nick: At least in the inception, I wanted to have a beard because I knew I wouldn’t have another opportunity for it. But then when you have a beard, you have to look otherwise relatively put together. Otherwise you do get looks on the subway.

Is there a difference between just an average beard and a hipster beard?

Calvin: Absolutely! A hipster beard is more well kempt, I think. It may involve wax. It certainly involves straight lines and sharp angles. I would almost say that I don’t have a hipster beard for that reason, mine is more of a… laziness/bum beard.

Nitai: Difference between Hipster Beard and non, is the difference between Superman and Batman. A hipster beard is Batman. Paid for. Bought. Toiled over. You grew it for a reason, to be your mask. You grew it so that people would say WOW! Look at that beard! He must be cultured, strong, masculine, rugged. My beard, a non-hipster beard, is Superman. It’s a part of me. I can’t stop being bearded anymore than Kal’el can stop being the man of steel. So the real difference? I’m not wearing hockey pads.

Nick: You can see the difference between a homeless guy with a scraggly beard and somebody that trims, conditions, and puts a lot of care into the whole situation. There’s a whole beard culture that is out there and some people put a ton of work into their facial hair.

BEARDS ON BAY STREET

There are more and more bearded guys in corporate law firms.  How do you think clients and partners have been/will be reacting to this new phenomenon?

Calvin: It might depend on the area you were working in. If your practice was wills and estates and you dealt with a bunch of wealthy dowagers, you probably ought to be clean shaven. But if you’re working union side labour, and all your clients are young construction workers, maybe it makes you more relatable – so I guess it speaks to social trends more than anti-establishment stances.

Folks strongly hinted that it would look unprofessional during OCIs to have a beard. But I ended up getting a job later on, when I was bearded once more. And so who can say whether it actually matters or what’s appropriate. I’m my more confident self when bearded.

Nitai: I strongly believe that in a field as diverse as law, where you have old white men, middle aged white men, and even young white men filling up the majority of the positions, it is often easy to get lost in the very diverse crowd. I think that beards are a breath of fresh air in this stale and stuffy environment. Think of my beard as my personal spring cleaning. Except, it sometimes looks dirty. But that’s aside from the point. Who wouldn’t see a bearded, “stout”, rugby-playing Jewish boy and say, “WOW! Can you look over these documents?” Think of a beard as a currency. Then take a few economics course because you obviously don’t know the first thing about currencies. So to answer your question, yes.

Nick: There can be a big difference between being sloppy and having a beard, and I believe the firms are starting to accept that somewhat. My beard is pretty sloppy (one of the main reasons I grew it was to embrace my last chance at the “lazy student” look), but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Most of the “corporate beards” you see nowadays are clean and well-maintained and I think most firms are fine with that, because they don’t represent an image that they can’t get behind.

On a similar note, you see more people in corporate environments embracing a bit of flair in their style – be it through flashy socks, pocket squares, ties, or anything else. Sort of a subtle way to show individuality in a way that still allows them to look presentable to more conservative clients and coworkers.

THE MAN BEHIND THE BEARD

Is it ever awkward to speak to clean shaven men when you’re so blatantly displaying your facial hair prowess and he isn’t?

Calvin: I’ve never really felt that awkwardness. I guess I don’t view it as a competition. Unless the other person has a beard as well. Then we’re in direct competition.

Nitai: Au contraire. In no way am I saying that beardedness is a sign of masculinity or that it is tied into it in any way. In fact, my great grandmother had a beard and she was just about the most feminine lady out there. A man is a man because he believes he is and treats others with respect. That’s all it takes. But I digress.

The only time it is awkward to speak to Cleanies (unshaven people) is when they ask dumb questions like “Is it itchy?” “How long have you been growing it for?” “How much would I have to pay you to shave your beard/chest?” “Why aren’t you wearing pants?” When I am asked any of these ridiculous and unnecessary questions my blood boils and my beard curls.  As the great orator Winston Churchill once said, “the.” And I think we all know what he meant by that. It is that a man is not judged by THE hair on his face or body or lack thereof. Rather, a man is judged on his character, his soul and his kindness and respect towards those who happen to share this beautiful world with him.

That being said, don’t touch my beard.

GIRLS

Can you think of the female equivalent of a hipster beard?

Calvin: I want to say the hipster bob. Or maybe large, tortoise-shell glasses.

Nick: When girls shave the side of their head.

Most men shave to look good. How do bearded guys deal with the potential risk of making themselves less attractive for women? Or do you find that women are drawn to the hair?

Nitai: Some are and some are not. Some men shave to look good. Others grow their beards to look good. Trust me. You do not want to see me clean shaven. I look like an overripe peach with dimples. Women or men aren’t attracted to me because of my beard. Rather it’s because of my feet. I have very polarizing feet.

Calvin: I feel like the sort of ladies I hope to attract appreciate the beard game. If the beard bothers someone, many other aspects of my life would probably bother them too. Such as the fact that I haven’t washed my hair with shampoo since July 2011.

Nick: Well, I think many women might find it attractive – there is a whole lumberjack vibe to it, I suppose. That said, I am an attached man and my girlfriend is relatively ambivalent about it. She lives in New York though so she may be hiding her disgust because (a) she doesn’t have to deal with it much, and (b) it keeps me looking like a dirty unattractive idiot… not that I would look less like a dirty, unattractive idiot without a beard…

A beard is a pretty big commitment, and it is (at least somewhat) a statement about who you are. Hopefully you will be able to find someone who is able to accept that.