There hasn’t been another quite polarizing all-encompassing topic in (gay) men’s history as The Beard. A token of simultaneously maturity, religious belief and sometimes sloppiness – facial hair has always been carrying symbolic value based on its form, length, thickness and color. Spanning from a lazy 3-day-stubble to a monk-length beard and from precisely contoured piece of barber art to a rather casual beard grooming facial hair has almost always been on everyone’s lips (pun not intended) Now the beard has been making a comeback for quite a while. Last time I was writing an analysis on beards intertwined with gay culture, I couldn’t really take it that easily that nowadays everyone is sporting some kind of facial hair – for more details read QUEENS WITH BEARDS
Grateful Grapefruit was on one the first outlets to question the sustainability of the beard trend and seeking its origins. With time, mainstream media picked up on the trend and that’s how beards tumbled down to GQ’s cover and the lifestyle sections of Huffington Post and Buzzfeed. Notwithstanding the trend reached it’s peak with the piece by Emine Saner who asked herself this past summer whether the beard trend isn’t slowly coming to an end. Now there’s even a book that aims to be tracing back the history of beards and analyzing their development from ancient history to present day.
Beards – An Unshaved History is a title that attracts with its claim for a rather studious research piece. What’s on the inside, however, is a rather visual (bilingual) research based more on the iconic images from the porn industry and fashion photography. Coming from the publishing house of Bruno Gmünder that’s not a disappointment – rather a promise for loads of eye candy. The author, Kevin Clarke, shows his vision on beards following chronologically the development of the cult in both hetero and homo communities and culture including the works of contemporary artists and photographers.
Central to the book seems to be a subtly suggested cult of the body – Clarke doesn’t seem to focus on diversity and variety, but rather uniformity in the gay community. The models are fit, slender and never exceeding contemporary beauty norms that can be found in men’s fashion magazines. That’s however in contradiction with two of the chapters that focus on the clones in the 1970s as well as the return of the clones since recently. This proves that the author doesn’t lack in self-irony which takes the whole Beards experience beyond pics to jerk off to.
You can form your own view on the Unshaved History book by purchasing it on Amazon – considering the high quality paper, binding and the plethora of artwork in it it’s definitely a suitable gift for every queer with a thing for fur.