My editor/publisher Brian McLean and me got to chatting one Tuesday morning. He usually has a goatee, but he was showing unshaved stubble that looked like the start of his winter beard, so the topic was up for discussion.
Brian asked me if I was going to grow another beard for the fall and winter seasons. I said no. Let me explain:
During the past couple years, I’ve grown two beards, something I’d previously never given any serious thought.
The first beard was born out of medical necessity after a tragic shaving cut during which a substantial chunk of my chin was removed as I hurried through my grooming in my morning pre-workday/play day routine.
Both were met with mixed reviews from my friends, family and a few comments from the public.
Some loved the beard. Others were aghast that I would even try to change my standard, clean-shaven, Marine Corps look that has been my norm. My wife loved and appreciated the new “scruffy” look. She even said it made me sexier. A fan of the ladies, I obliged her opinion and grew the beard out.
It bothered me the whole time. It itched, and I was worried about the implications of what the new look might represent.
With the daily growth, I felt like I was heading toward another cultural grouping and kinship with people I’ve never been close to. The stubble look of a couple days’ growth looks like you’ve been without a shower or been on a recent bender in Las Vegas with buddies from long ago.
After a week or more, the unkempt starter growth starts to look like a movie star with a very calculated and groomed presentation. But at a certain point, and with some time invested, the new beard starts to come into its own.
I started to wonder where I should stop with its growth, at what look appealed or exemplified my personality or status in society. I felt like I had a “rugged” outdoorsman look, or one of an Alaskan bush pilot, a lifestyle I try to emulate with the Puget Sound “bush plane” flying I do several times a week to the coast and the San Juan Islands.
At one point in the process, my all-male newsroom co-workers (at the time) all started to grow beards to show solidarity among the manly men of the office.
Then I started to worry about the whole beard lifestyle, and what’s required to maintain it. It started to bug me. I have enough going on without having to worry about the face fuzz and its upkeep. However, the amount of time I had invested was a major factor in the process.
Does a person leave a relationship after investment of time and emotional attachment despite the loss of the “spark?” I’m not one to roll over easily and concede defeat.
Do I invest in an electric grooming trimmer with all of the associated attachments and charging and cleaning protocols? Do I have to take classes on how to properly maintain and craft my new beard lifestyle/look?
I hastily shaved off the first beard. I thought that, because of the changing of seasons, from winter to spring, the loss of the beard could be easily justified because of the utility of rising temperatures. You don’t wear a fur-lined coat during the summer, right?
Then I started to miss the endless stream of comments I received. My wife wasn’t as excited with the re-branding of my classic look.
A few weeks went by, and I started beard 2.0. It was more gray, more filled in, and perhaps even more fierce than the first. My friends, family, co-workers and, yes, even I, started to welcome back the look.
Then I started to over-think the fur-face lifestyle. It itched more and more. I shaved it off without much fanfare one morning. No jury of peers. No prejudiced wife opinion, not even a consultation with much more experienced gurus of fashion and face. It’s gone now.
When Brian asked the question and suggested I may miss it a little with colder temperatures coming, I would have loved to say, “no more beard.”
I’m afraid I can’t say so for sure.Staff photographer Lee Giles III can be reached at 253-358-4156 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_lee.