Beards are everywhere.
Thankfully, they’re mainly attached to faces, so the threat is isolated. We may not like them, or agree with them, but we know where we stand.
Unlike cyber-attacks or Brexit, beards are at least real and tangible, and that’s comforting.
Having said that, it can’t be long before the hippest men in the UK are sporting fake, intangible, virtual beards. They may already be doing so.
I’m a bit sketchy on how a virtual beard might work, but that’s no surprise. I’m forever reading about technological advances that I don’t understand.
Someone kindly tried to explain what bitcoins are the other day, for example. It was immediately apparent this would need me to use a part of my brain that is no more developed than a small child. “Is that even a thing?” I found myself thinking.
There are small children who know more about bitcoins than me.
I’m currently raising two of them.
So the person doing the explaining noticed the bafflement on my face, and we both gave up.
If men, or indeed women, want to sport a virtual online beard who am I to disapprove?
Anyway, back to real beards.
They used to be a by-product of left-wing politics, along with cardigans and compassion. The traditional method for growing and maintaining a beard involved being patient, and persevering through the itchy phase. I’m old enough to have grown a beard back in the days when it signified nothing more than a passionate desire to teach geography and eat hummus.
But in the last decade or two multinational companies got involved to help sell what they call ‘product’.
Now, if you want to fully commit to the beard life you need special shampoo, a beard comb, beard oil to keep it shiny, and various other products to ensure your beard meets minimum industry standards.
Hummus is optional.
All advice suggests you should treat your wiry facial growth with the kind of love and attention previously reserved for a pedigree poodle on the eve of competition.
My worry is that beards are a kind of gateway grooming, and likely to lead to stronger stuff. It’s a slippery slope that takes you from beard maintenance to moisturiser, eyebrow trimming, and the really hard stuff like leg shaving and chest waxing.
Capitalism and facial hair have collided to spawn an industry we didn’t know we wanted.
I fear we are yet to reach peak beard.