Beards and piercings - that’s all I’ve been seeing recently. So many men seem to be going down one road or the other or - more and more it seems - both that I’m tempted to join them. The thing is I get one, but I really, really don’t get the other.
Maybe it’s a winter trend and everyone will soon be reaching for the razor as the weather hots up but everywhere I look men of all ages are letting their face fuzz grow. It’s not just me - a colleague said they were on a tram the other day and every man in sight was bearded to some degree or another. It’s not Movember yet.
What’s the pleasure to be had in a lump of metal stuck up the nose, or a stud through the tongue
And it’s not just the grown-out slack, unshaven look. These beards are cared for.
Item 1: A neatly turned-out twentysomething in the city with a preacher-style chinstrap. Item 2: At the pool the other day while trying to avoid eye contact with the breast-feeding woman in the shallow end (and what’s that all about?) I almost bumped into another parent with a neatly topiarised sideburn/goatee combination. Item 3: Young(ish) man on train with vertical, centimetre-wide sideburns almost down to his adam’s apple. Item 4: Businessman-type with neatly shaped chin-only thingy.
All of these examples of facial hair looked cool and neat and well-maintained - not at all the set-and-forget Ned Kelly style. These are beards for today. And to my eye, they all looked great.
But it seems that hand-in-hand with the growth in great beards has come an explosion in “facial jewellery” and that’s, for me, a step too far.
I’ve been watching the latest season of Foxtel's Project Runway Australia. Twelve young Australian designers vying for the crown etc etc. It’s good, speaks to the secret, fashion-forward me. It’s quite catty, which is nice. And Megan Gale’s in it. Most of the male designers have some sort of beard/moustache thing going on (waxed tips in one instance) and many are also rocking the pierced look into the bargain. Pole jobs in the corners of the mouth, rings in the eyebrow, studs in the nose, you get the picture. They’re ‘’on-trend’’ kind of fellas (or so the wonderful Alex Perry says) so the beard-plus-piercing look must be well ‘‘in’’.
Beards are great. They don’t, if you’re genetically disposed, take much to grow - you just stop shaving really, it’s that easy. Ten minutes a day saved - that’s an hour a week or so. And then you can play with them. Style them, shave bits, trim bits, or get rid of them if you like. Barbers can do this for you, but you can do it at home too.
I have to confess that my beard-watching has gone hand-in-hand with raising a young beard of my own. I’ve got past the itchy stage, past the ‘‘are you growing a beard?‘’ questions. It had even grown a little long and fluffy (to the extent that I could feel it flapping about on my face) when into my lap, so to speak (a PR emailed me and offered a free sample) came the Gillette Proglide Styler ($30 or so) This marries a Braun trimmer (complete with itty-bitty #1, #2 and #3 combs) with a five-blade razor. I got the beard back to neatness with the clippers and shaved the cheekbones back a bit too. Looking good. Bathroom and me covered in 5mm-long browny-white stubble. At least at the barber I don’t have to clean up. But yeah - looking good. There are, I’m sure, many other clippers on the market, and barbers to do the job for you too - and clean up after. Whatever style you choose, beards are pretty easy to tame.
That’s the great thing about them - they’re mutable. Trim a bit here, shave a bit there and away you go. You aren’t stuck with them for life.
Doesn't it hurt?
But piercings? What’s to like about them? What’s the pleasure to be had in a lump of metal stuck up the nose, a stud through the tongue, or a ring through the eyebrow. Doesn’t it hurt? And isn’t there a chance the metal will get caught on something and rip great lumps of flesh off? I saw a woman on telly the other day who had, after running out of places to pierce, bifurcated her own tongue.
Perhaps I'm being a bit knee-jerky here. I’m sure there’s lots of men out there who love their piercing, and many women who find them sexy. So if you feel like it - go for it, as long as you're old enough to make your own decisions. I overheard some teenagers the other day and one of them said they only mumbled when they were talking to their dad. Not just because they were 14, but so he wouldn't notice their new tongue stud.
I found out last night that I was going to have to bid goodbye to the beard after the wife told me that in it’s new, trimmed state I was too prickly to kiss for long. Easy. It’s as good as gone. And, if I wanted to, I know I could grow another. But what if your partner didn’t like the stud, or the ring or the bifurcated tongue? That’s the difference - beards can come and go but piercings are pretty permanent. And that’s why with the styled-beard-plus-piercing look I’m giving a big hand to one and a huge thumbs down to the other.
What about you. Have you gone the beard-plus-piercing route? (And does your job allow you to get away with them?)