Emine Saner says beards may be a victim of their own success:
“In years to come, when they make movies or write books about this time, the beard will be used as a definitive visual shorthand for the early 21st century, as the mustache is for the seventies and a pair of muttonchops for Regency England,” wrote the cultural commentator Ekow Eshunin an essay on beards last year. Eshun tracks this modern sprouting back to the pre-beard nineties dotcom boom, the speed and slickness of it at odds with slacker style, grunge, facial bushiness, and New Labour, for whom “beards were everything they abhorred. Beards were Clause IV and Militant. Donkey jackets and picket lines. Marx and Engels.” After the dot-com bust, 9/11 and the war on terror, writes Eshun, “came a more reflective public mood” and a yearning for a simpler time. The craze for a kind of pastoral idyll took hold, even if the men lived in Hackney, Portland or Brooklyn–artisanal food, crafts, folk music. And beards.
Erin Gloria Ryan thinks the “peak beard” argument is credible, if depressing:
The piece’s author, Emine Saner, describes herself as a “staunch pogonophile,” (Greek for “beardfucker”) so we know she’s not just another snooty Times writer in khaki cargo shorts mincing over to Brooklyn so they can write about hipsters with a detached air of wounded nerd superiority; she’s on the side of beards. She’s a beard advocate. According to Saner, beards are everywhere–they’re at the Oscars. They’re at the Grammys, and not just on Mumford and his Sons. They’re on your barber, the tattoo artist, the guy at the bike shop, the guy in the cubicle over, the bartender, the guy on the train, the guy you are having sex with, the guy you want to have sex with. The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker. Etc. All the cool kids are growing furry sweaters on their faces. “Beards, beards, beards,” she writes. I agree. Beards.
But Saner warns that we may be reaching a “saturation point,” that there is nowhere else for beards to grow, and that, simply due to the nature of trend life cycles, the next phase in male facial hair fashion won’t hearken back to a simpler, more barn raising-intensive time. Since everyone has a beard now, soon the only way for a guy to distinguish himself will be to shave it all off and present his face to the world like a naked baby.
The one thing beards have going for them is that they’re less hassle than shaving every day. And men are lazy. Let’s also not forget one obvious fact: having a beard is the default option for the male of our species. If you do nothing, you have a beard. The default is not a fashion statement; it is the basis for all fashion statements for the male face.