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Beardness Protection Program

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Escaping the a hair.

"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 as is Dye or Die.

Not to be confused with Growing the Beard, which is figurative instead of literally growing a beard.



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    Comic Books 
  • In Mike Grell's run on Green Arrow, Ollie shaves his beard and hair while on the run.
  • The Incredible Hulk: 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.
  • 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.
  • Lucky Luke: Doc Doxey's Elixir: in the second half of the album, the villain Dr. Doxey shaves off his beard and moustache in order to avoid being recognized by Lucky Luke. It works, until Lucky Luke sees a mischievous boy vandalize a picture of the now clean-shaven Doxey with a beard and moustache.
  • In Sherwood, Texas, Rob Hood grows a beard as part of his disguise when he adopts the identity of Loxley.
  • Spider-Man's Harry Osborn grows a handlebar moustache and shaves his head to get away from his father.
  • 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.
  • An unusual version in an old Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen story; Jimmy has been trying to invent something and he comes up with a mixture that causes fast hair growth while trying to make some kind of fuel. Later in the story, he sees that a couple of men are coming to get him and uses the mixture to grow a beard for a fast disguise.

    Film — Live Action 
  • In Anne of the Indies, Pierre grows a beard before going to Port Royale, so the British will not associate him with the clean shaven French naval officer turned privateer.
  • In The Assignment (1997), two men wear fake beards and wigs when meeting in an East Berlin café. The KGB photograph the meeting and use Facial Recognition Software to remove the beards and match their faces with those of terrorist Carlos the Jackal (currently under KGB protection) and a known CIA agent. This was the CIA's plan all along; 'Carlos' is actually a Doppelgänger and the fake beards make the meeting look suspicious while increasing the chance that the computer will give a false positive result.
  • Avengers: Infinity War sees Captain America with a full beard and moustache due to being on the run after the events of Captain America: Civil War.
  • The McManus Brothers evidently grew beards and long shaggy hair while hiding out in Ireland after the events of the first The 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."
  • 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.
  • In The Count of Monte Cristo (2002), 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.
  • In Dont Look Now Were Being Shot At, Sir Reginald shaves his iconic "Big Mustache" because it looks too British and would make him stand out.
  • 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.
  • El Camino: Skinny Pete asks Jesse not to shave his beard to be less recognizable. Jesse ignores the advice and shaves it anyway.
  • 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 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. It pays off — despite having a picture of Kimble in his hand as he speaks to him, a state trooper doesn't recognize him. This is an inversion from an early draft of the script, where the trope would have been played straight—Kimble would have grown a beard to conceal himself.
  • In La Grande Vadrouille, World War II bomber command officer Sir Reginald Brook (Terry-Thomas) shaves off much of his mustache because he looks "too English" with it in occupied France.
  • He Walked By Night: After hearing his description broadcast on the police radio, Cop Killer Roy Morgan immediately shaves off his pencil moustache.
  • 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 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.
  • 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...)

  • 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 described as a bald, bearded man, is the Nazi and the killer.
  • Deryni: 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.
  • Discworld: 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.
  • In Dragonlance, Tanis takes advantage of this several times, since as a half-elf he's able to grow facial hair unlike all but the oldest full-blooded elves and can pass for a human when he has one.
  • One Encyclopedia Brown story features a wanted criminal who wears a false beard in order to avoid detection. He ends up getting discovered in Idaville when a small boy sees him pull off the beard when he enters the car, recognizes him from his wanted poster, and goes to tell Encyclopedia that he'll pull off his beard like that instead of shaving when he grows up.
  • In the Dutch children's book Het geheim van Mories Besjoer (The secret of 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 Hell in the Palo Duro by J.T. Edson, Dusty Fog and Waco grow beards when they go undercover as outlaws on the run to infiltrate the Outlaw Town of Hell.
  • 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.
  • In the Lensman books:
    • 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 technique."
  • The Lord Peter Wimsey books:
    • In The Nine Tailors, Nobby Cranton grows a beard before going to look for an emerald necklace he'd stolen some decades before.
    • Lord Peter himself grows a beard when infiltrating a criminal gang in one of the short stories.
  • Garion suggests this to Zakath when he joins them in the 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.
  • Masked Dog by Raymond Obstfeld. A CIA agent relates how a colleague always wore a beard while undercover. "He must have seen Serpico a dozen times." This caused a problem when the house he was sleeping in was firebombed and his beard caught fire. He had to get a skin graft from his behind transplanted to his chin, causing his new beard hairs to be somewhat curly.
  • The James Bond novel Moonraker has an example of the prepared-in-advance version. Big Bad Hugo Drax has his men shave their heads and grow moustaches, so after that his missile strike on London they can completely change their appearance by shaving off their moustache and letting their hair grow back.
  • Downplayed in The Murderbot Diaries. ART convinces Murderbot to use the Auto Doc to modify its body in order to disguise itself as human. The changes include longer hair to conceal the data port and body hair to conceal the joins in its body, but also to subconsciously avert Uncanny Valley.
  • 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 his appearance seems off.
  • 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"...
  • Serpico wears a large mustache—and later the hippy beard made famous in the movie—at a time when so-called plainclothes cops are wearing regulation haircuts and shoes. When attached to Vice however he adopts a long flowing beard that works too well — word soon spreads among the hookers to beware of "The Beard", and Serpico has to shave again on seeing prostitutes fleeing a bearded man trying in vain to pick them up.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Jaime Lannister keeps the beard he acquired in captivity, then shaves his head for good measure. It doesn't seem to fool the Brotherhood Without Banners, given his famous gold hair and handsome looks.
    • 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, it's out of pragmatism — they're on a boat and he's badly seasick — but it later becomes a disguise.
  • 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.
  • Tales of the Branion Realm: 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 The World According to Garp by John Irving, a paedophile molests a girl in the park, then shaves off his mustache in a public toilet to avoid the police. In the book's Moment of Awesome after Garp chases down the paedo, the young victim is confused. After Garp paints a mustache on him with his own blood, the girl recognizes him.
  • In the Worldwar series, Moishe shaves for the first time in two decades as part of his escape from a ghetto.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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' solution to everything is to "flee the city and grow beards!"
  • Black Saddle: In "Client: Tagger", Tagger has grown a beard so the man responsible for sending him to prison won't recognise him as Tagger stalks him.
  • 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.
  • In the final two episodes of Breaking Bad, Walter grows a full beard and all his hair back when hiding in New Hampshire, which helps no one initially recognize him as Heisenberg when he returns to Albuquerque.
  • Doctor Who. In "Last Christmas", Clara Oswald wakes up to the sound of a reindeer-drawn sleigh crashing on her roof, piloted by two elves and a jolly bearded man in a red suit.
    Clara: Are you Santa Claus?
    [Extremely unconvincing denials ensue, then...]
    Santa: All right, fine, yes. Yes, it's me. Ha! Guilty. How did you recognise me?
    Elf: You know how you grew that beard as a bit of a disguise? People have picked up on it.
  • Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, when Dr. Mike fails to recognize her presumed dead fiancé when he comes to town looking for her because of the thick beard he's grown.
  • Inverted on The Flash (2014). The Earth-2 Hunter Zolomon was a prolific and well-known serial killer with an unkempt beard and hair. He was able to take on a whole new, equally-public identity as "Jay Garrick" simply by going clean-shaven and cutting his hair.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Barristan Selmy grows one during his Chekhov M.I.A..
    • Roose Bolton sports one in "The Lion and the Rose" after having to smuggle himself into his own lands. The next scene includes him shaving it off.
    • Tyrion grows a hybrid between this trope and Beard of Sorrow for Season 5.
  • In "The Century Turns", the first episode of Hec Ramsey, one of the constables in New Prospect's first police force is a criminal who has grown a bushy moustache to disguise his identity. Hec is able to recognise him with the aid of the mini rogues gallery he keeps in his crime kit.
  • In Homeland, terrorist leader Abu Nasir shaves his iconic and prominent beard when he infiltrates the United States. The change makes him unrecognizable even to the viewer.
  • Eighties Fugitive clone Hot Pursuit, involving a couple on the run after the wife is framed for murder, had the husband shave his beard along with mutual dye jobs.
  • In How to Get Away with Murder, Frank shaves his iconic beard to go on the lam after being implicated in a murder.
  • In Law & Order: Criminal Intent, a criminal had a thick beard but had it shaved once he got in the country.
  • Inverted in the Masterpiece Theatre series of Les Misérables, where Javert fails to recognize Valjean because he's shaved the thick beard that he had in prison and conversely let the hair on his head grow out.
  • Inverted once on NCIS with an assassin who looks different from his bearded mugshot because he's currently clean-shaven (which doesn't stop Abby from identifying him before he can shoot his target).
  • The Professionals. In the prologue of "Mixed Doubles" a terrorist sneaks into the country with this trope, and a maid who enters his hotel room while he's shaving it off gets her throat cut with the razor he's using.
  • At the start of The Punisher (2017), Frank Castle has an unkempt beard that causes him to be called a hipster. It's implied to also be a Beard of Sorrow given that Frank has lost his purpose now his Roaring Rampage of Revenge has ended. When he discovers it hasn't he shaves the beard, joking that he doesn't like hipsters or being mistaken for one. He doesn't have the beard at the start of Season 2 because the authorities have erased his records so he doesn't need it.
  • Duncan grows a beard like this near the end of the first season of Veronica Mars. It might also be 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. Peter realizes he can figure out when Neal first decided to escape from prison by looking through past security footage for the day Neal stopped shaving.

  • The Magnus Archives: In "Do Not Open" Joshua Gillespie hopes the beard he has grown in the months since meeting "John", the man who paid him to do a service he now wants to get out of, will prevent the latter from finding or recognising him. It doesn't.

    Video Games 
  • In Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura, 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 and technological aptitude.
  • In Dead Space 3, we see that Isaac Clarke grew one between the second and third Dead Space games whilst trying to avoid EarthGov.
  • 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.
  • Red Dead Redemption II: In the Epilogue, John Marston's default look consists of a level 4 beard and short hair, and the whole family uses fake names. They're not in an official witness protection program but the idea is the same.
  • Team Fortress 2: The Spy has a miscellaneous item called a "Camera Beard" that's equal parts this trope and Shoe Phone.

  • 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. This ends up being how Dr. McNinja exits the cast at the end of the comic.

    Western Animation 
  • On The Legend of Korra, Zaheer shaves off the beard he grew in prison (and also shaves his head) in order to infiltrate the Air Temple in Republic City.
  • There are a few Popeye cartoons where Bluto shaved his beard to disguise himself, like Vim, Vigor and Vitaliky, She-Sick Sailors and Parlez Vous Woo.
  • 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 on The Simpsons fakes his death, he grows a beard so nobody can recognize him... but Bart still does. Subverted in that his beard is fake.

    Real Life 
  • Saddam Hussein, who was known for his moustache, grew a very large beard when he went into hiding from the U.S. army.
  • Radovan Karadžić, getting rid of his flamboyant hair to acquire a dignified white beard.
  • 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 (1.95 meters, or 6'5"), this was in 2002, right when he was one of the most wanted faces in the world. The Report was quite scathing on that point.
  • Charlie Cox and Elden Henson generally sport beards in their day to day lives. When filming Daredevil (2015), they have to shave their beards to play Matt and Foggy respectively, since Matt has Perma-Stubble while Foggy is clean-shaven. In at least one interview, Henson has said that people generally don't recognize him with the beard.
  • French World War II Serial Killer Marcel Petiot grew a long, black beard after his crimes were found. The disguise was so effective that he was able to join The Resistance, and was even tasked to find Petiot before someone recognized him.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Beardless Protection Program, Beard Of Disguise


Fake Moustache

The hero has disguised himself to expose a gang of con-men in the bazaar. However, the seasoned con-men turn the tables on him.

How well does it match the trope?

4.33 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / OutGambitted

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