Withering Glance: Men and beards

  • Article by: RICK NELSON and CLAUDE PECK , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 21, 2012 - 2:34 PM

Rick Nelson and Claude Peck dispense unasked-for advice about clothing, etiquette, culture, relationships, grooming and more.

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Ashton Kutcher without whiskers.

Photo: Jason Redmond, Associated Press

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CP: The for-no-good-reason egocentric celebrity Ashton Kutcher recently showed up with his scruffy beard gone. Much as I don't like him, I have to say that his new look constitutes a big improvement. I know you, as a full-on beard man, will likely disagree.

RN: Ugh, the patchy, barely post-pubescent Kutcher beard. A sorry excuse for the beauty that can be the fully realized manscape.

CP: You might have preferred life during the Civil War era, when every man over 15 had a beard starting just below his eye sockets.

RN: Sure, go to the other extreme. And for the record, I don't prefer the Russian Orthodox Priest look. I'm thinking more like Liev Schreiber, Hugh Jackman, Joe Manganiello, Alexander Skarsgard or Peter Dinklage. They can all rock a thick but carefully trimmed facial lawn.

CP: When you and I did our usual in-depth research recently -- interrupting a bearded man and his clean-shaven friend at lunch -- we unearthed some inside tidbits. Mr. Clean Shaven said his wife swore that if he grew a beard, she'd shave her head bald.

RN: And then he told us that their standoff was the marital equivalent of the nuclear arms race -- and that he had to back down. Bearded Guy -- a prime example of the baldie who can work a full face of whiskers like no tomorrow -- told us about the "one-year rule."

CP: Oh, yeah. Once you go bearded, he said, you've got to commit. At least a year, or the shock of the sudden shave is too great for your loved ones.

RN: Makes sense to me. When I first met you, back in the big, bad mid-1990s, you had been carefully cultivating a rather distinctive goatee for nearly a half-decade. What happened?

CP: I made a mistake. Fortunately, photos of that look were pre-digital, and I have been able to search and destroy them.

RN: Then you haven't seen my latest scrapbook, but I digress. Here's what my friend Tibby recently posted on his Facebook page: "Vancouver has a disproportionately large number of very attractive men with beards. Feel free to 'like.'" Twenty-three of his friends did just that. What does it mean?

CP: Portland, Ore., was the same way. Even the artsy guys in the skinny jeans with fixed-gear bikes have gone all Bon Iver-y.

RN: Heavens to Paul Bunyan, you would think that our subzero metropolis would be wall-to-wall beardage.

CP: I think a lot of straight women still prefer the beardless guy. I believe the same goes for a wide swath of the gays.

RN: Speak for yourself.

CP: I would never presume to speak for you, O Never-Bearded One.

RN: Thanks. I'm not Italian, but it doesn't mean I can't appreciate a nice baked ziti.

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