Cleveland Uber Alles

Untimely Dispatches from the Neighborhood of the Unrepresented & Inarticulate; Anecdotes that Pedal and Coast Through the Boot-Print of 20th Century American Urbanism

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Hipster Beard Meets its Demise, Courtesy of Greorge Clooney, The New York Times Some of us will be buying the new five blade razors. The conventional wisdom of the fashion-forward, idle-thinking, and trend-concerned suggests that once a sartorial or grooming style is noted and analyzed in the New York Times, it’s dead. Thus, should I overcome my aversion to daily shaving and my admiration of John Bonham, I will at last be forced to give up the facial scruff that I’ve hidden behind since the fall of 2001. I simply can’t cotton to the fact that, as the Times reports, the male editorial staff members of Spin (how 1991) and Vice (how 2003) are now “majority beard.” Maybe even my side burns must go—staying ahead of fashion takes radical measures. The Times, of course, is as off in its analysis of the facial hair fad as it was in the call that Saddam had Weapons of Mass Destruction. First there’s the speculation of fad's relevance to the zeitgeist of 2006 America:

“Whenever a countercultural trend becomes a mainstream one, there is a natural tendency to look for deeper meaning. Do beards that call to mind Charles Manson suggest dissatisfaction with "the system"? Are broody beards, like the dark and somber mood of the fall fashion collections, physical manifestations of a melancholia in the air? Are they a reflection of the stylistic impact on mainstream fashion of the subculture of gay men known as bears, who embrace natural body hair?”
Then there’s the dismissal, which no doubt keeps readers ready buy whatever’s advertised:
"But such theories seem to have less relevance—and beards less shock value — than they once did. "Style has separated itself from viewpoint," said Tim Harrington, the lead singer of the rock band Les Savy Fav, who is known for his full beard and balding head. "This is not like when beards were worn by hippies. Now you pick a style for aesthetic reasons as opposed to a viewpoint. I wonder if beards can have the oomph they once had when it feels like someone will ask you: 'Where did you get that beard? Is that beard from Dolce & Gabbana?' "
So is the bread fad apolitical? Message-Free? Hardly. But it’s not perhaps as countercultural as you might think, either. Anyone who hung out at the bars where the hip kids started sprouting this facial hair back in 2001 and 2002, knows that, in fact, the look is a response to the news media’s constant iconography of Islamic radicalism, with all its lusty fear-mongering. Forget about George Clooney with his Semitic-State-Department-Wonk Beard in Seriana. Think John Walker Lindh. Think the Taliban. And like any “counter-cultural fad” the beard fad does well to serve our corporate masters, who love images of themselves as radicals and extremists, who like to be seen, more and more as law givers, and, well, yes, as Jihadis. So, that kid at the Beachland Ballroom whose wearing his now out of style beard is simply saying this: I’m prepared to fight for the corporate bottom line with the same kind of will that the Mujahedeen bring to repelling the imperialist agressor. His beard, then, is America's declaration (not unlike the President’s) that we are succeeding in the Middle East, that we can coopt its symbols of manhood and claim even these for the careless pimping of pop records and deoderants. Discuss?

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