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Beards, Goatees and Mustaches: How Facial Hair Frames Identity

Hmm, what does the beard symbolize? As a matter of fact, most politicians I envision are clean-shaven, no mustaches and definitely not a goatee. Wait, there are Che’ Guevara, Fidel Castro but both men were revolutionaries. In some cultures, does a beard symbolize divergence from the norm? Men, please chime in, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Do you wear facial hair? Why or why not? Any stories to share?

Hello everyone,

The other day I heard a radio story about Egypt’s new Prime Minister Hisham Qandil.  So, why am I discussing Mr. Qandil on a website about hair and identity?  Interestingly enough, the story was about how Prime Minister Qandil’s beard is stirring discussion about what a beard symbolizes.  I am not an expert on Egyptian politics or on Islam, so I apologize if I am oversimplifying the story.  Apparently, in the past, beards have been associated with Muslim “hardliners” (according to the article, hardliners refer to devout Muslims follow the exact teachings of the Prophet Muhammad).  However, Egypt is described as a country with secular traditions; therefore, a beard might not be a welcome symbol in some circles. Please see the BBC’s story on this topic here.

Come to think of it, off of the top of my head, I can’t think of ANY politicians (other than Abraham Lincoln) who wear beards?

President Lincoln donning his famous beard

Hmm, what does the beard symbolize?  As a matter of fact, most politicians I envision are clean-shaven, no mustaches and definitely not a goatee.  Wait, there are Che’ Guevara, Fidel Castro but both men were revolutionaries.  In some cultures, does a beard symbolize divergence from the norm?

As I did some research on this idea, I came across an article by Slate.com–> Slate’s article on “Beards in Politics”.  Wow, the article is all about politicians and facial hair. An interesting read (e.g., I never knew why the military banned facial hair!). This story has prompted me to consider how facial hair frames identity. Men, please chime in, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Do you wear facial hair?  Ladies, do you love or despise men’s facial hair?   Why or why not? Any stories to share?  Now, should we venture into facial hair on women?  Wow, that’s a whole different series!

Thanks!
Tina

  • rosemaryandrock

    Yes, I’d agree with your comment that today, beards indicate a sort of alternative culture. Full beards make me think of the Unabomber. Neater ones make me think of people who are maybe academics or writers. “Scruff”, on the other hand, I associate with hipsters or people who (think they?) are really handsome and can “get away” with not shaving. I agree though that historically beards would have been associated with power and masculinity–think of the horrible attacks in the Amish community of late that involved people forcibly cutting off others’ beards: http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/16-amish-ohio-reject-beard-cutting-plea-deals-16887977 Then too there’s the story of Samson–hair = power. A topic with a lot of substance to it!

    • drtinaopie

      Hi Rosemaryandrock. I’m usually much better about responding to comments! Forgive me. thank you for taking the time to read the post. It’s amazing to me that something as common as facial hair can carry such meaning!

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