The newspapers might be full of reports about how the little black dress reigned supreme at tonight’s Baftas but for me it was all about the facial hair. And I’m not referring to the women (Helena Bonham-Carter sorted out that little problem years ago). No, I’m talking about acting’s male elite, because this year’s Baftas saw the emergence of a new hirsute hierarchy in Hollywood. Facial hair was everywhere – from Affleck, Clooney, Phoenix and Jackman to Bardem, Mendes, Pegg and Wishaw. Even host Stephen Fry was sporting suitable face furniture for the event.
My Twitter feed, meanwhile, was positively bristling with excitement at the amount of unashamed beardage on display. So who, some of my followers wanted to know, won the Bafta for Best Beard, in my professional opinion? Without doubt, it was Affleck, whose facial hair is on a par with that of Jake Gyllenhaal’s and is everything a good beard should be: thick, even and neat without being overly manicured.
What struck me most tonight, though, was how far we’ve come in embracing the beard. Where once facial hair would elicit derision now it gets admiring oohs and ahhs from both men and women. Affleck’s family may well have hated his beard when they first saw it but it certainly hasn’t done his career any harm – the opposite in fact – and along with the raft of other actors currently sporting facial hair, it’s proof that 2013 isn’t the Year of the Snake at all – it’s The Year of The Beard.
I read with interest yesterday that tests have been taking place at the University of Pennsylvania into using the drug cidofovir to stop stubble in its tracks and put an end to men’s need to shave once and for all.
An anti-viral drug previously used to treat people living with HIV cidofovir has the side-effect of ‘local alopecia’ and, as was the case with Minoxidil (the active ingredient in Regaine and one originally used to treat high blood pressure), its alternative money-spinning usage is clearly a big draw to its manufacturers.
The study, published in Archives of Dermatology, appeared to show a reduced hair count in the men who used a 3% dosage of the cream, opening the door for a product that could prevent stubble once and for all. The big question, of course, is will men use it?
It’s one I’ve asked numerous times in articles and on message boards and the resounding answer has always been no. Creams and balms already exist (Clarins and Clinique both do them) that reduce stubble growth a little but they’re hardly hero products men are falling over themselves to have in their grooming armoury.
Sure, on paper a life sans stubble sounds like a great idea: no more five o’clock shadow, no more boring daily shave, no more expensive blades to shell out on, but in practice I’ve discovered men are remarkably attached to their facial hair. And why wouldn’t they be? After all, an end to all the down sides also means and end to the main upside too which is that a beard, ‘tache or goatee is a cheap and effective way to change your look whenever you fancy. Women have make-up to play with and men have facial hair.
And let’s not forget that facial hair is fundamentally a secondary sexual characteristic – there to indicate masculinity and the presence of testosterone. It isn’t just about fashion: Anthropologically speaking it has function too. In fact I believe research has shown that women are programmed to find three days’ worth of stubble particularly attractive.
There will be those, I’m sure, who find my attitudes decidedly retrosexual and, since I have beardage myself I am slightly biased, but the day I’ll believe men want to live without facial hair is the day women say they want to live with it. Now there’s a thought – a cream that makes women grow facial hair…