Hey, you’re back! Well so am I! It’s Suze-day.
So today I thought I’d talk about something that may turn out to be controversial. Yes, or no? To shave, or not to shave?
I’m talking about men’s facial hair. I won’t bore you with a history of styles (you know I looked it up, though! Fellow nerdettes and nerds, click here for a nice Wikipedia article on beards, and here for one on mustaches).
The main types:
Eyebrows: Nothing crazy here. Keep ‘em trimmed. But if you have a unibrow — that’s another story. Pluck or wax and keep it secret. Only Larry Hagman as JR Ewing gets to keep ‘em, because he’s, you know, legendary.
Sideburns: Unless you’re Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine, I’m going to say no to muttonchops and big 1970s-style ‘burns. Sorry, Elvis, but this just was not a good look. I’m also not a fan of the country star shaved-straight-across-the-bottom cheekbone thing. I will admit that I have a thing for close-trimmed, neat sideburns that are just a little bit too long, like the ones my UPS man has. He also has cute legs, FYI.
Mustaches: There are many, many types of mustaches, from the bushy Ned Flanders-style soupstrainer, to the handlebar, the pencil-thin, and the porn star. I don’t think we’ll see the return of the Hitler ‘stache anytime soon, but who knows? Fashion is fickle.
Beards: There are also several types of beards, and by beards I mean facial hair that originates below the lower lip. Beards are usually worn in combination with sideburns and/or mustaches, the notable exception being the soul patch. Which looks great with the aforementioned just-a-bit-too-long sideburns and which I sort of love. (Don’t bother me for a few minutes — I’m having my Bruce Springsteen reverie right now).
The goatee/mustache combo is very popular these days. My husband’s cousin’s husband is a barber of Portuguese descent, and I adore the precisely razored lines along his jaw — so exotic (and so much work to keep up!). There is also the Amish beard, where the chin hair connects up with the sideburns with no mustache, also known as the Abraham Lincoln. Who knows? This one may be poised for comeback. I will tell you that I’m a little partial to these because my grandfather and uncle used to grow matching red beards like this during deer hunting season to keep their jaws warm out in the woods. Although I never asked, I suspect the mustaches were dispensed with because they tend to get frosty when a guy is out in the cold for long periods of time.
Now, I’ve noticed something. Heroes in novels (romance and otherwise) almost never have facial hair. Oh, they may have a scruff because they’ve been too busy fending off highwaymen or tending to the cattle on their ranches or performing undercover special-ops missions to shave for a couple days, but I can’t think of a single recent novel where the hero has a beard or mustache. The only exception is Elizabeth Peters’ Radcliffe Emerson, who has a magnificent black beard when our heroine, Amelia Peabody, encounters him in a Victorian Egyptian museum–she detests it, so off it comes. Rhett Butler has a mustache in the movie, but I don’t recall him having one in the book (anyone? does he?).
So why do you think that is? Studies have shown that most American women find a guy with a light, well-groomed beard and mustache more attractive than a clean-shaven guy or a guy with a full, bushy beard. There’s apparently something about men’s ability to grow facial hair that speaks to women on a biological level. Look around you next time you’re out and about — there are a lot of men out there who wear it. And yet our literary heroes don’t take advantage of that, and neither do we writers.
How about you? What’s your preference? Do you like your heroes, fictional or real-life, clean-shaven or with a bit of manly ‘stache or beard? Would you ever create a hero with facial hair?