Beards ride a wave of popularity

If you have noticed more men with big beards recently, you are not imagining things. Facial hair has
Owner William Yager, left, owner of Patsy's Barber Shop on Howard Street in Albany, says the beard tend is part of a natural style cycle. With him is Brett Belleville.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Owner William Yager, left, owner of Patsy's Barber Shop on Howard Street in Albany, says the beard tend is part of a natural style cycle. With him is Brett Belleville.

If you have noticed more men with big beards recently, you are not imagining things. Facial hair has been a growing trend since around 2012, long enough that many now say the trend is reversing. But it appears the whiskers aren’t going down without a fight.

The origin of the trend is unclear. Some say it started with Ben Affleck and George Clooney, others give credit to basketball and soccer stars for launching the trend.

Even scientists have weighed in on the beard issue: A new study commissioned by the University of Western Australia suggests that men growing beards is an evolutionary response, in order to show dominance over other males. The study noted similar behavior in 154 different species of primates who used “badges” that set them apart to boost their sexual appeal to females of their species.

There is no doubt that beards are on people’s minds. According to Google Trends, the number of searches for beards has risen sharply since September 2012, peaking in October 2013, although numbers are still well above pre-2012 levels.

Woody Wood, who owns Woody’s Barbershop in Saratoga Springs, said that he has seen more beards in his shop than ever before. He said that in April alone he had 50 men come in to have their beards trimmed.

“I have never seen this many beards,” said Wood, who likes the style. “I think it’s awesome,” he said. “Honestly, if I could do it, I probably would.”

William Tragedy Yager, who owns and operates Patsy’s barbershop in Albany, said men young and old have embraced the trend. Yager, himself bearded, said the trend is just part of the natural cycle of what is in style. He said that more and more men now prefer well-groomed beards over more haphazard styles.

“You have the ‘Duck Dynasty’ beard and then you have a gentleman’s beard,” Yager said.

Yager’s theory is that the beard was partly inspired by the popularity of television shows such as AMC’s “Mad Men” and HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” which feature older styles of hair grooming. And he thinks the trend is far from over.

“It’s only going to get bigger,” said Yager.

Mike LaRow of Glenville said that he has had a beard for most of his adult life. He began growing a beard when he graduated from high school, inspired by the beards of stars like Steve Reeves, the body-builder and actor who played Hercules in a series of films in the early 1960s.

LaRow said the beard is just part of his appearance at this point. “I think twice I shaved it off and everybody thought my face was swollen,” he said.

While many people view beards as a fashion statement, others view it as a necessity. John Lemnotis, a Saratoga Springs native who now lives in Utah, said that he grows his beard largely because of the cold climate in his new state. However, he explained that it does have other benefits.

“I don’t like shaving,” said Lemnotis. “Razors close to the face — no way.”

Brad Gaborow, the head chef at Esperanto Restaurant in Saratoga Springs, expressed a similar sentiment, saying that he grows his beard so he does not have to shave everyday.

“It’s more of a laziness issue for me,” said Gaborow.

The trend toward beards has had a noticeable effect on shaving product sales. According to the Washington Post, in 2013 shaving razor sales fell to $2.3 billion for the first time since the recession.

Categories: Life & Arts

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