Decorative Beards: A Formative Fad?

Vida Weisblum, Arts Editor

While mustache-decorated notebooks, mugs, clothing and the like have become fairly ubiquitous in chachka stores around the country, finding beard paraphernalia requires effort. Fortunately however, the beard appears to be making a comeback, and better than ever. Rather than adorning common objects with beard decoration, hipsters everywhere seem to be interested in adorning their own beards and have merged Victorian stubble standards of the 18th century with modern Bohemian style. Worry not! You won’t need to raze away your well-groomed handlebar to test the new trend, but you might consider adorning your Thoreauvian chinstrap with bejeweled hairpins or trying out a ’60s-inspired flowerstudded chin curtain.


College first-year Zack Gill has already embraced one of the latest beard trends. When his friend’s 16-year-old sister visited his Harkness dwelling and offered to decorate his facial fuzz, Gill couldn’t help but oblige. The College firstyear might be mistaken for a senior due to his mature facial features, given that he took a gap year and is nearing 21. Despite appearing older than his contemporaries, Gill sported a bold assortment of neon hair ties in his fluffy auburn beard for a portion of the school year, giving him an air of youth. Though he claims he wouldn’t be able to style his beard as such himself, Gill would consider switching out his current hair bands to black ones to achieve what he describes as a “more natural look.”


Gill is one of the first students at Oberlin to adopt beard beautification. While numerous Obies approve of and even advocate for the standard, non-decorative beard, campus has yet to see more creative beard-bending choices. Over the past couple of years, a flood of articles surrounding beard decoration has saturated many collegeage oriented websites, including Buzzfeed, Tumblr and Pinterest. Back in July of 2014, Buzzfeed reporter Rachel Zarrell posted about flower beards, which featured images of various men wearing different types of flowers in their facial fuzz. She credits Pierce Thiot art director of TBWA\Chiat\ Day, for starting the trend of sticking stuff in beards. Thiot runs a Tumblr account titled “Will It Beard” and posts photographs of his beard decorated with various every-day objects including but not limited to flowers, pastel-colored slinkies, raw spaghetti, gummy worms and googly eyes.


Later in December, Rachel Wilkerson Miller — also of Buzzfeed — posted about miniature Christmas ornaments created for stringing on beards during the holidays as an alternative to summer flowers. The idea sprouted from a company called Beard Baubles, run by Pauline Ashford and Mike Kennedy of the creative agency Grey London, as part of the Beard Season Initiative to spread awareness for melanoma. The tiny baubles come in an array of festive colors and can be fastened to beard hair with the use of bobby pins.


While flowered beards might be viewed as a reincarnation of ’60s flower power, the introduction of other objects as hair accessories marks a shift in beard decoration. With the new progression in beard culture, beards now come with a handful of variations. Though many Oberlin students are outspoken beard advocates and many wear their beards with pride, not everyone agrees on the functionality of beards today.


College sophomore Sol Solomon finds decorated facial hair to be a positive fashion statement that marks a social shift. “As a person who is traditionally perceived as masculine because people tend to assume gender, facial fair is a phenomenon that I find sometimes inaccessible,” Solomon said. “However, in recent times I found that trends such as decorating beards either with flowers or other knick-knacks defies the initial perception that decorating one’s hair [is feminine] and having facial hair is masculine. [The trend counters] the gendering of facial hair as masculine, allowing for a more accessible fashion medium for people with facial hair … Not only is it a great fashion trend that allows … people with facial hair [to accessorize more], but it contributes to the de-heteromasculinizing of the masculine appearance.”


For College sophomore Joe Greenberg, who hasn’t shaved his robust yet moderately trimmed facial hair since high school, the beard continues to bear a more traditional meaning. “It makes me look older,” Greenberg said. “Some people wear a beard because they can [decorate it], and that’s not me.” He believes that beard decoration is not so much a fashion statement but a means of attracting attention. “I think a beard is supposed to make you look, in some sense, more masculine. If I were to analyze why I had a beard, it would be to appear as more of a professional man.”

While there are plenty of students sporting stubble, Gill still appears to be the first to try out the trend. No one can know whether or not the fad will progress on campus, but questions surrounding the beard’s connotations will persist.