Beardness Protection Program
"Do you know what this [being exposed] means, Hobbes? We'll have to change our names, move to another state, grow a beard and shave it off, then start all over again! From now on, we're no longer Calvin and Hobbes!"A man who is on the run or otherwise trying not to be recognized will often grow a beard as part of his attempt at concealment. The inversion — where a heavily bearded character shaves for similar reasons — is also relatively common, doubling as an Important Haircut. A sufficiently Crazy-Prepared character might grow a beard so that, sometime in the future, he'll be able to shave it off and go unrecognized - maybe this is the reason for the Beard of Evil? If the character in hiding is ashamed of what he's done, it may also count as a Beard of Sorrow. Wig, Dress, Accent is another variation on the theme. Not to be confused with Growing the Beard, which is figurative instead of literally growing a beard.
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- In recent years, Bruce Banner has tried once shaving his head, and another time growing a beard to disguise himself from the authorities pursuing him. Consequently, we got to see a bald Hulk and a fuzzy-faced Hulk.
- Shows up briefly in the Spirou and Fantasio album "Machine qui rêve". The comic opens with a bearded man pursued by the authorities, who shaves his beard off in a bar's bathroom because his image is being broadcast on the news channels. It turns out to be a movie the main characters are watching.
- In Just Imagine Stan Lee Creating Batman, Wayne Williams gets out of prison knowing that a local mob boss is after him, so he shaves his head bald and turns his goatee into a handlebar mustache.
- In Mike Grell's run on Green Arrow, Ollie shaves his beard and hair while on the run.
- Spider-Man's Harry Osborn grows a handlebar moustache and shaves his head to get away from is father.
- In Sherwood, Texas, Rob Hood grows a beard as part of his disguise when he adopts the identity of Loxley.
Film — Live Action
- In the film version of The Fugitive, the second thing Dr. Kimble does after escaping from prison is shave off his beard. (The first thing is to ditch his orange jumpsuit.) That is, Harrison Ford begins the film with a beard only to lose it after 20 minutes and look like himself for the rest of the film. This is an inversion from an early draft of the script, where Kimble would have grown a beard to conceal himself.
- In the 2002 film of The Count of Monte Cristo, the Count does this, trimming his scraggly Beard of Sorrow into a refined nobleman's beard to pose as the Count. It even fools his love interest for a bit.
- Following: When "Bill" fears that a witness would be able to connect him to a robbery, he then gets a haircut and shaves his beard.
- In Don't look now... We're being shot at!, Sir Reginald shaves his iconic "Big Mustache" because it looks too British and would make him stand out.
- In the first Highlander movie, the Kurgan does a very messy job of shaving his head hair to evade police capture after several witnesses see him lop off a guy's head.
- In Day of the Wolves, each of the Wolves is instructed to grow a beard before arriving to train for The Heist, and then to shave it off after they have split up, so that none of their fellow thieves knows what they look like without the beard.
- After staging his own death in Eddie and the Cruisers, Jersey rock-star-in-the-making Eddie Wilson is revealed in the sequel to have developed a cunning dual strategy for concealing his identity: (a) moving to Montreal and (b) growing a moustache. At the very end of the first film we see Eddie alive, watching a retrospective of his career on a TV in a shop window, with a big beard.
- The McManus Brothers evidently grew beards and long shaggy hair while hiding out in Ireland after the events of the first Boondock Saints film. Before returning to Boston, they shave and cut their hair.... then wonder why they did that, when now they match their wanted posters, and before they "looked like Jesus Christ."
- Clark in Man of Steel, when Walking the Earth. He apparently finds time to shave off-screen while changing into the Superman suit (deftly dodging the age-old "Kryptonite razor" question...)
- Hiding Out has Jon Cryer as an adult accountant with a beard who shaves and gives himself a skunk stripe to hide from hitmen as a high schooler.
- In the Lord Peter Wimsey book The Nine Tailors, Nobby Cranton grows a beard before going to look for a diamond necklace he'd stolen some decades before.
- As does Lord Peter himself, when infiltrating a criminal gang in one of the short stories.
- In The World According to Garp by John Irving, a paedophile molests a girl in the park, then shaves off his moustache in a public toilet to avoid the police.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire:
- Jaime keeps the beard he acquired in captivity, then shaves his head for good measure. It doesn't seem to fool anyone.
- There's also Ser Barristan Selmy, who grows a beard sometime between being fired from the Kingsguard and joining up with Daenerys.
- Ser Rodrik Cassel shaves his very impressive whiskers, initially out of pragmatism - they're on a boat, and he's badly seasick - but it later becomes a disguise.
- In the Worldwar series, Moishe shaves for the first time in two decades as part of his escape from a ghetto.
- The James Bond novel Moonraker has an example of the prepared-in-advance version.
- Garion suggests this to Zakath when he joins them in the Malloreon. (As Zakath is the Emperor of the largest nation in the world, his face is on almost every coin in Mallorea, which would tend to hinder attempts at stealth.) Zakath has no trouble complying, because he doesn't know how to shave. Garion's a little incredulous that a man at his level of power/paranoia would let other people near him with a straight razor.
- Doubly inverted in The Prisoner of Zenda — in order to impersonate the king, the protagonist shaves off his beard. He bears a remarkable resemblance to the King, but isn't identical, so someone could pick up on the difference. Both protagonist and king wear beards, but that the "king" suddenly chose to shave is a convenient explanation for why something about the "king's" appearance seems off.
- In Neil Gaiman's Stardust, Primus shaves his beard. He doesn't expect to fool his rival, but simply to have an extra moment to react before he was recognized. Its effectiveness is never tested.
- Attempted by Buck Williams in the first Left Behind novel, and is lampshaded by his boss Steve Plank, who comments how unnecessary he believes it to be.
- Romance of the Three Kingdoms records Cao Cao's rout by Ma Chao's forces, where they first target "the one dressed in red" - so he loses his red robe. Then they target "the one with the beard", and so he shaves his beard. And then they start looking for "that guy with the shaved beard"...
- In Going Postal, Reacher Gilt has an elaborate beard as part of his pirate "look". He shaves it when he has to go on the run after his plans fail. Since he was planning on disappearing if his plans succeeded (before people started asking for their money back), he seems to have had this in mind from the start.
- Early in High Deryni, Morgan and Duncan are depicted sporting beards and wearing the colours of the rebel leader Warin deGrey while gathering intelligence, partly among Morgan's own subjects. When they report to Kelson, the king comments on the fact he's never seen them with beards before, and Duncan notes how effective their disguises have been.
- In the Dutch childrens book Het geheim van Mories Besjoer (The secret or Maurice Bonjour) a French resistance fighter grows a big mustache and uses Monsieur Moustache as his alias, planning to shave himself clean if he ever had to flee from the Germans.
- In "The Painter Knight," two men wanted partly because of their religion shave their beards — a clear sign that they are members of the other religion.
- In Gray Lensman Kimball Kinnison grows a beard to go undercover as Chester Q. Fordyce.
- It's also implied that Kinnison went bearded as Wild Bill Williams: "He cut his hair, and his whiskers too, with ordinary shears, as was good tecnhique."
- Lampshaded in Boy's Life. Toward the end of the book we discover the man killed in the beginning had helped relocate a Nazi scientist. The victim's brother comes looking for him and, learning he's dead, believes the killer is the Nazi. He shows Cory's father a picture but explains that he's probably changed his appearance, and the easiest way to go unrecognized is to "shave your head and grow a beard." The vet, who was much earlier to be a bald, bearded man, is the Nazi and the killer.
- In Hell in the Palo Duro by J.T. Edson, Dusty Fog and Waco grow beards when they go undercover as as outlaws on the run to infiltrate the Outlaw Town of Hell.
Live Action TV
- Duncan grows a beard like this near the end of the first season of Veronica Mars. Unless it's a Beard of Sorrow; at the time that he grows it, he's both depressed and running away from home.
- In the pilot of White Collar, Neal grows a beard in prison, and then shaves it off the day he escapes so he won't be recognized. He doesn't look all that different, but he does look just different enough to fool the facial recognition on the prison security cameras.
- In Law & Order: Criminal Intent, a criminal had a thick beard but had it shaved once he got in the country.
- In Breakout Kings the team figures that a big prison break was supposed to have another participant who missed the escape because he was sent to the prison infirmary. He stands out since he recently shaved his head so he would look different from his mugshot pictures.
- George Bluth of Arrested Development briefly has a beard after becoming a fugitive, though he shaves it as soon as he starts hiding out in the model home's attic. This was part of a reference to Saddam Hussein.
- Regularly Invoked Trope in Atlantis, where a Running Gag is that Hercules's solution to everything is to "flee the city and grow beards!"
- Season 5 trailers for Game of Thrones show Tyrion Lannister with one, though Beard of Sorrow may also apply.
- Team Fortress 2: The Spy has a miscellaneous item called a "Camera Beard" that's equal parts this trope and Shoe Phone.
- In Arcanum, the "Gnome" you met at the start of the game is quickly revealed to have been a Dwarf, who shaved his beard (inconceivable to their culture) to flee from something he was forced to work on the machine that would bring the Big Bad back to Arcanum and managed to use it prior to full completion due to his small size.
- Dragon Age: Inquisition has this in Blackwall, to hide the fact that he isn't the real Blackwall. Iron Bull expresses disbelief that a beard was enough to hide his identity. Thom Rainier admits that not speaking to other people for months at a time made it easier.
- In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, a variation on the idea of growing a beard just to be able to shave it off for an easy disguise is the reason the McNinja family all wear ninja facemasks at all time. If no-one knows what they look like, then when they really need to, they'll be able to take their mask off and disappear.
- Unfortunately for the good doctor, one of his arch-enemies Frans Rayner, has learned what he looks like under the mask. Now he's just waiting for an opportunity to use it to his advantage.
- In Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town, this is supposedly why Kris Kringle first grows his beard. His wanted posters had him beardless and he wasn't an iconic toy-making symbol just yet. The bearded form is, according to the special, the symbol it is because he grew the beard to escape the law.
- After Krusty the Clown fakes his death he grows a beard so nobody can recognize him... except Bart still does. Subverted in that his beard is fake.
- Saddam Hussein, who grew a very large beard◊ when he went into hiding from the U.S. army.
- Radovan Karadžić
- Vladimir Lenin◊, plus a wig.
- Che Guevara◊
- Charles Darwin. After publishing 'On the Origin of Species' he became very famous, but he wanted no part of the controversy that followed. So, to go about unrecognized, he grew his now iconic long, woolly beard. It worked so well that even his close friends didn't recognize him at scientific conferences. Ironically, the modern world wouldn't recognize him without the beard.
- French General Henri Giraud shaved his mustache just before his escape from a German POW camp in World War II.
- No less than Osama bin Laden managed to hide successfully by shaving off his beard. The Abbottabad Commission Report reveals that it apparently worked so well that the Pakistani policeman who stopped the car he was in on a routine traffic check did not recognize him. Keep in mind that not only was bin Laden of unusual height, this was in 2002, right when his was one of the most wanted faces in the world. The Report was quite scathing on that point.
- It is true that this is a way to beat facial recognition in some cases.