A fascinating Q&A with the author of the new book ‘Of Beards and Men.’
The history of civilization as we know it has been humankind’s struggle to overcome nature, to assert order where entropy rules. But, as Christopher Oldstone-Moore writes in his book Of Beards and Men, each of us play out a microcosm of that struggle every morning in our personal grooming decisions. The question at hand—to grow a beard or to shave—not only tells us a lot about ourselves as individuals, but also, writ large, about our culture as a whole. “The history of men is literally written on their faces,” he writes.
While the surfeit of attention paid in recent years to a seeming bearded resurgence headed up by the world’s hipsters, athletes, and celebrities might lead one to believe that we’re living through one of the seismic facial hair realignments Oldstone-Moore identifies, we’re not quite there yet. A “smooth face is still very much the norm,” he writes. You need look no further than the pages of publications like this one, with recurring features about how to get the best shave, to recognize how in thrall we’ve become to the cultivation of our facial geography. A beard, then, is still a signifier of outsider status, no matter how many trend pieces you might read.
It’s periods like the time of the Roman emperor Hadrian, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the 19th Century that he points to …Read full article