No more Mr Pretty Boy – the beard is back!
Celebrities are embracing face fuzz, but it takes grooming, writes a hirsute Joe O'SheaHair-raising attempts: Colin Farrell and Ryan Gosling both wear their beards well
Published 15/02/2013 | 06:00
It may not be welcome news for the women of Ireland. Or Gillette and Wilkinson Sword. But beards are back and in a very big way.
If this week's BAFTA awards are anything to go by, Oscars night in Los Angeles will be a veritable beard-fest, featuring some of the world's most glamorous male stars looking very hirsute on the red carpet.
George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Ben Affleck, Javier Bardem and Bradley Cooper are just some of the male superstars who no longer carry a razor in their wash-bags.
Even Stephen Fry, hardly known for being the rugged outdoor type, was rocking whiskers at the BAFTAs and making a joke about not being the "only actor who has come here tonight with a beard".
Fry may have been indulging in his customary wordplay (a "beard" has long been Hollywood slang for a woman who provides cover for a gay but closeted male actor).
But as the BAFTA host looked out over the rows and rows of shaggy-chinned stars, he could have been forgiven for mistaking the throng in the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, for a crowd scene from beard-heavy biopic Lincoln.
The trend towards facial hair, also seen recently on male models during Paris and New York fashion weeks, is already starting to be seen on the street here in Ireland.
Our own male celebs, from Chris O'Dowd and Colin Farrell (who has always had a thing for the rough 'n' ready look) to TV presenters such as Brendan Courtney and Craig Doyle have been spotted sporting face furniture.
O'Dowd in particular has been a beard aficionado for years, saying; "I generally have a beard when I'm not working and always have."
The star of Bridesmaids and Moone Boy may be a long-time beard-wearer but it seems more recent converts are following a trend that has some pretty complex origins.
Many pop culture commentators believe facial hair has become shorthand for "authenticity".
The theory is that the suddenly sprouting beards are a push-back against the previous trend towards male prettiness, the ultra-groomed boyish look that has held sway since the mid-noughties.
In Hollywood, actors such as Ryan Gosling and Gael Garcia Bernal can avoid the pretty-boy tag by simply growing out a bit of stubble.
And when George Clooney wants to do hard-edged and authentic, he ditches the razor and goes for the Old Man Of The Sea look (quite literally in The Perfect Storm), telling fans that he expects to be taken seriously in this particular role.
Of course, the irony here is that the shaggy, outdoors-man look takes a hell of a lot of grooming.
"It usually takes a lot of effort to look like you are not making much effort," says Dublin barber Emmet Byrne.
"It may look slightly scruffy but if you are going to carry it off with a sharp suit or tux, you have to get it exactly right."
Emmet, who owns The Butcher Barber and counts several Irish rugby internationals, well known musicians and TV presenters amongst his all-male client list, says he has seen a sharp rise in the number of his clients now shunning the razor.
"It's very much the look right now whether it's unshaven – what they used to call designer stubble back in the '80s – to full beards. It's part of that return to a more grungy look.
"It's a bit to do with that illusion of lack of vanity and lack of care of what you look like."
However, Emmet has a word of warning for Irish guys who want to go the bearded route.
"You can't just stop shaving and think it will look after itself. You have to get your beard trimmed and shaped as often as you get your hair cut, maybe more if you are going for that very precise shape with a goatee or 'tache."
Beards have, of course, gone in and out of fashion for centuries, from the goatees of Elizabethan England to the bushy, luxuriant growths of Victorian Times (when a man without facial hair was considered strange and suspect).
The attitude of women to facial hair has also changed. A recent study found that women from two ethnic groups, Europeans from New Zealand and Polynesians from Samoa, preferred clean-shaven faces to bearded ones.
However, women and men from both cultures ascribed a higher social status to bearded men. Men with beards were seen as more dominant and more powerful.
With the blurring of gender lines, the opinion of women is increasingly important when it comes to male grooming. And the almost totally negative response to Brad Pitt's perfume ad, which saw him sport a ludicrous beard, may prove that the beard is not for every man. Not even the world's most beautiful man.