The phrase "growing a beard" never made much sense. It implies an active function carried out by the beard wearer. In actuality, facial hair grows on its own, its landlord merely condoning the process. This is not just a semantic grievance; in today's society, facial hair carries with it-besides the occasional food particle-a certain stigma.
The clean-shaven face implies youthful civility. The polar opposite-a beard that never saw the sharp end of a knife-demonstrates almost a carnal defiance of authority. Then there's everything in between: mustaches, goatees, Van Dykes, soul patches, mutton chops, and the Fu Manchu, among others. Many have graced the face of Brad Pitt.
Despite all these creative facial options, approximately 1 in 2.17 men aged 15-30 is clean-shaven. The goatee (hair completely surrounding the mouth) is sported by 1 in 4.76 young men, making it the marquee beard for today's young adult. It's a curious choice for the most popular unshaven look, because it does require moderate upkeep. Regardless, it is a very urbane look, as opposed to, say, large sideburns ("mutton chops"), which only 1 in 16.67 men let flourish on their cheeks.
Then there's the 'stache. When it comes to mustaches, 1 in 9.09 men have them, but "not everyone can grow 'em." Tom Selleck might have one of the top face gardens in Hollywood history (which could explain the oddball popularity of the website Selleck Waterfall Sandwich), but many other movie stars aren't able to get the mustache to look proper.
That's where the American Mustache Institute comes into play. As per their mission statement, they exist solely to promote and protect the right to grow quality mustaches. But they provide only one small glimpse into the myriad ways facial hair aficionados-and their opposites-draw battle lines. Bearers of the 'stache often hold themselves in high regard, as both heroes and villains (from Super Mario to Yosemite Sam). Even the New York Yankees, who have a ban on beards, exhibit a tolerance toward mustaches. (No word if they're thinking of trading for Diamondbacks pitcher Clay Zavada.)
Like a peacock with its feathers, a young, fertile man aims to attract the opposite sex from across a noisy room. Unfortunately, beards in all their infinite variety don't always effectively lure potential dates. In fact, 1 in 2.17 women aged 15-30 prefer their men clean-shaven. The good news is that every once in a while a man will find that female (1 in 11.11) who opts for men with mustaches, and will subsequently whisk her away with his whiskers.
In the end, beauty is in the eye of the beard holder.
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Posted By: Matt Sussman
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