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Facial Scruff

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Two Owls and a Hen, Four Larks and a Wren, have all built their nests in my beard!
Facial hair grows naturally on the faces of most adult male humans. In spite of this, men have been shaving their faces smooth since time immemorial. At certain times and in certain places, those who choose not to do so may be marked out as at least different, if not strange, unsightly, or outright subversive. To varying degrees, either not shaving as such, or else maintaining a specific style of facial hair, may reflect negatively on the wearer. It may range from a simple aesthetic preference (such as when a woman says she prefers her partner to be clean-shaven) to an outright prejudice against a man who chooses to forgo the use of a razor. Some might wonder: "What is he hiding behind that thing?" Others would mark him out as too unconventional for their taste; still, others would simply see him as slovenly and too lazy to shave.

Like anything else susceptible to changing fashions, facial hair has seen its fortunes rise and fall. There have been periods when full beards were very common and facial hair was ubiquitous, and others when beards were very rare and unpopular, most recently under the conformist, clean-cut trends that marked the 1950s and that would gradually be subverted during the 1960s and into the 1970s.

As a blanket prejudice against facial hair, this is now largely a Discredited Trope. In our day, when fewer people are concerned with taboos and superficial conventions than was once the case, a lot of men wear beards in various walks of life, and keeping a neatly trimmed beard will usually not garner ridicule or undue attention from one's surroundings, nor be a significant impediment to one's career advancement. Nonetheless, there are still workplaces, especially those of a military or paramilitary nature, which ban or restrict facial hair. Some styles of beard may attract more negative attention than others; such attitudes will in some cases be cyclical. Take the humble mustache for example. Around the end of the 19th century, it was ubiquitous. Many otherwise clean-shaven men wore one. The popularity of the mustache declined during the 20th century and by the 1950s it would have looked rather odd on a young man. In the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s, though, the mustache was quite popular again, and a man might wear one at least in part to emulate alpha-male Burt Reynolds or Magnum, P.I.. In the 21st century, however, wearing a mustache alone has become uncommon. Many people associate them with creepy uncles or 1970s porn stars, or at least with that decade of much-reviled fashion that was the 1980s. Attempts to revive the mustache have been made by hipsters, as well as through the Movember tradition, although mustaches grown as part of Movember often include elements of self-parody.

Compare Beard of Evil, where a villain is deliberately portrayed as bewhiskered, Beard of Barbarism, where facial hair is a marker of belonging to a barbarous civilization, and Porn Stache, where a style of mustache invokes comparisons to porn actors. Beard of Sorrow is when a character lets his facial hair grow out during a depressive episode. Contrast Perma-Stubble, when a Badass keeps his beard half-grown and Manly Facial Hair, when facial hair is seen as a sign of masculinity. May overlap with Good Hair, Evil Hair.

Not to be confused with Weird Beard, in which an object resembling facial hair takes the place of the latter, or where a beard is misplaced or has properties different than in real life.

Related in name only to Growing the Beard, when a series hits its stride of stylistic maturity, so named from Commander Riker in Star Trek: The Next Generation whose growth of facial hair in season two is said to coincide with an overall improvement in the show's quality.


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  • Not surprisingly, this trope is sometimes resorted to by manufacturers of shaving products. An example that leans rather toward positive reinforcement than to outright criticism is a 1901 ad for Williams' shaving soap, carrying the slogan "If You Aspire to be President, SHAVE!" It claims that "It is a curious fact that nearly every President of the United States has shaved"note  and goes on to associate using their brand of shaving soap with being almost a requirement of being President, or at any rate with having a really great shaving experience which is "almost equal to being President."
  • In 2013, an ad campaign for Schick razors in New Zealand showed images of otherwise beautiful women endowed with men's beards, accompanied by the tagline "Would you kiss you?" The message needs no explanation.

    Comic Strips 
  • There are installments of Blondie in which Dagwood gets the idea to grow a beard and Blondie vetoes it. See here for example.
  • Dick Tracy: Tracy sported a Porn Stache for a while in the '70s. Eventually, his coworkers physically hold him down and shave the ridiculous thing off. His response afterward is, "Thanks."
  • The Family Circus had an arc in 1973 when the dad started growing a mustache while the family was on vacation. He managed to grow a pretty impressive one, but the mom bluntly told him: "It makes you look old." Cue to a picture of the dad holding a razor, smiling, and sans mustache, with an equally happy-looking Dolly calling out: "Mommy! He shaved it off!"
  • One FoxTrot arc has Roger deciding to grow a beard over Andy's objection. It ends when Andy announces that she has decided that it is his facial hair and he can grow it out if he wants to. Similarly, these are her leg hairs... Roger shaves.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Roman Holiday:
    • Photographer Irving Radovich (Eddie Albert), a friend of journalist Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) has a Bohemian beard. Joe takes a jab at it when he needs to stop Irving from revealing to his boss Mr. Hennessy some information about their recent acquaintance Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) which Joe has decided to keep confidential:
      Joe: There you go again, Irving.
      Irving: Joe. Listen, th—
      Joe: Hey, all right, save that till later; you're here early anyway. Why don't you go home and shave!
      Irving: [putting a hand on his beard] Shave!?
      Joe: Yeah, or else keep quiet till Mr. Hennessy and I are finished talking.
    • A significantly more understated example from the same film plays with the trope: the barber who gave Princess Ann her Important Haircut invites her to a party that evening. He comes to the party having shaven off his mustache, ostensibly in an attempt to make himself more attractive to her.
  • In Lover Come Back, marketing executive Jerry Webster (Rock Hudson) and his boss grow beards on a camping vacation in Canada. On returning, Jerry doesn't bother to shave his off. In the guise of an eccentric scientist, he meets rival ad executive Carol Templeton (Doris Day) and they agree to cooperate on a project. Carol starts to be attracted to Jerry but wonders why he grew a beard, and eventually drops a subtle hint to him to shave it off. He takes the hint. Cue to the barbershop where Jerry has just been shaved down to his baby face. Carol looks on dreamily as the shop's manicurist comments: "Saaay!...Your husband's (sic) a real doll without the beard!"
  • In Strange Bedfellows, the beard worn by Harry Jones (Edward Judd), Toni (Gina Lollobrigida)'s Bohemian friend and rival for her husband Carter (Rock Hudson)'s affections, is used as a source of humor from his very first appearance in the movie, where Carter puts him down with the comment "I'll thank you to keep your food-stained beard out of my affairs AND my eggs!" At another point, the two men end up sharing a bed. Carter turns around and reaches for what he thinks is his wife's face, and realizes that it's actually Harry when he ends up stroking Harry's whiskers. Later, when Harry is blocking his way, Carter tells him: "Are you gonna move or do I have to shove that bush down your throat?"
  • In Clueless, Cher (Alicia Silverstone) remarks to Josh (Paul Rudd) at one point: "Hey, granola breath! You've got something on your chin." When he replies "I'm growing a goatee", she retorts: "Hmmm. You don't want to be the last one at the coffeehouse without chin pubes." Aforesaid goatee doesn't last.
  • In Dinner for Schmucks, one of the guests invited to the dinner for the purpose of being ridiculed is a man with a large show-type beard styled into two rows of upwards-curling spikes.

  • Edward Lear's A Book of Nonsense contains the limerick "There was an Old Man with a Beard", the subject of which has ended up with various birds making their nests in his beard (see image above).
  • In The Twits, the introduction describes beards as ugly and talks about how it's easy to get food stuck in your beard.
  • Played with in Greenapple Street Blues, a 1987 young adult novel by Canadian author Ted Staunton. When Mr. Flynn, the homeroom teacher of protagonists Cyril and Maggie starts the new school year having shaven off his mustache, the boys dislike the change while the girls are happy about it. The boys make a bet with the girls over whether they could convince Mr. Flynn respectively to grow the mustache back or keep it off. After some lobbying by each side, Mr. Flynn takes Cyril and Maggie aside, demanding an explanation. On learning about the bet, he states that they have put him in a difficult situation and requests a resolution. Cyril suggests that Mr. Flynn grow a full beard instead. In this way, neither side loses, or alternatively, both sides win. Mr. Flynn likes this idea and comes to school unshaven the very next day.
  • Jean Ure's book Skinny Melon and Me has Cherry disliking a character in a book dating the main character because he is "too old and has a beard", even though he shaves it in the book. Her stepfather also shaves his beard off, but she doesn't have the heart to tell him he looks even worse without it.
  • Wilkie Collins, in The Dead Secret, describes the prejudice against beards at the time the novel is set:
    In the year eighteen hundred and forty-four, the fact of a man's not shaving was regarded by the enlightened majority of the English nation as a proof of unsoundness of intellect. At the present time, Mr. Treverton's beard would only have interfered with his reputation for respectability. Seventeen years ago it was accepted as so much additional evidence in support of the old theory that his intellects were deranged.
  • In the Sir Henry Merrivale book And So To Murder, the Belligerent Sexual Tension between Monica Stanton and William Cartwright is heightened by the fact that he has a beard, and she can't stand facial hair.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In a 1963 episode of Leave It to Beaver, Wally likes a girl who starts showing interest in a mature-looking transfer student, who just happens to wear a mustache. Wally therefore decides to grow one himself. Everyone finds the result ridiculous-looking, and the one who laughs loudest of all is the girl Wally wanted to impress. Back at home, he promptly shaves it off.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Dr. Crusher claims that she's always been "suspicious" of men with beards. Given that the most notably bearded man on the Enterprise is the somewhat roguish Riker, we should make of that what we will.

  • Many Orthodox Jewish men wear beards for reasons having to do with the interpretation of several Biblical verses. Subverted by Orthodox Jewish men who understand those verses to forbid only shaving off of one's beard by means of a bladed razor, implying that other means of removing facial hair are permitted. In particular, electric razors are deemed to function as scissors, permitting their use.

  • In Much Ado About Nothing, Beatrice expresses a personal dislike for men with beards. One of the first things Benedick does after falling in love with her is to shave off his own beard.

    Video Games 
  • In Disco Elysium, the Player Character is a Defective Detective with unkempt mutton chops and a mustache. Combined with his sweat- and booze-stained '70s lounge clothes and all the signs of late-stage alcoholism written across his features, the cop's facial hair is repeatedly pointed out as not doing the department any favors as far as maintaining an air of professionalism is concerned. However, if the protagonist decides to get a shave his partner Kim will state that he actually looks worse since at least the facial hair hid some of the damage.

    Web Videos 
  • Dad plays with this concept; Mom likes men with beards, specifically Neighbor and his beard. When Dad starts to grow one for this purpose, she does think it looks nice but is startled by the sudden change. Because her kiss on the cheek is blocked by the beard hair, having the beard only contributes to Dad's Sanity Slippage, and the more unkempt it gets the worse his mental state is, until he finally shaves it off and returns to "normal".

    Western Animation 
  • In the The Flintstones episode "Fred El Terrifico", Fred Flintstone adopts a new persona for the Flintstones' and Rubbles' vacation to Rockapulco; as part of it, he grows a thin mustache that others think is dirt on his upper lip.
  • On The Simpsons episode "Home Away from Homer", Ned Flanders moves away from Springfield and moves to Humbletown, Pennsylvania, home of the Humbles figurine factory. Ned at first finds it idyllic, but when he applies to work at the factory, it turns out they have a no facial hair policy. Ned refuses to shave his moustache, and after being harassed by the other residents for it, he moves back to Springfield, where at least no one ever gave him grief over his lip hair.

    Real Life 
  • In the 18th century, most men in the Western world were clean-shaven and even mustaches tended to be seen only on soldiers.
  • After a surge in popularity in the mid-19th century, beards hung around until they started to decline around the turn of the century. By the 1920s, beards were squarely out of fashion; over the next few decades, especially in North America, the vast majority of men were clean-shaven and full beards were generally seen as something odd. They might appear on a sailor, an artist, or perhaps a senior citizen, but anything more than a mustache here and there (and perhaps a goatee on someone like a professor, for example) would have been a highly unusual sight on the average person. Even the Elvis Presley-style sideburns worn by 1950s greasers were generally considered a mark of rebellion. The beards that accompanied the long hair trend in the 1960s were initially frowned upon by many; finally in the 1970s, a full beard could again be considered as something mainstream.
  • The last United States presidential candidate to have facial hair was Thomas Dewey. Though significantly popular, it is seriously believed that he may have lost two presidential elections (1944 and 1948) because he insisted on wearing a mustache. He mainly seems to have put off the female electorate: women voters in particular criticized him for it and in at least one case (Emilie Spencer Deer of Ohio) openly declared that they could not vote for a man with a mustache.note 
  • One style that has consistently remained buried is the narrow toothbrush mustache, largely due to the fact that it was worn by one of the most evil characters in recorded history.
  • While leaving their beards, Amish men shave off their mustaches to avoid associations with historical military fashion, due to their pacifistic views.
  • Many military or paramilitary bodies (police forces, fire departments, etc.) do not allow full beards and restrict, or at the extreme outright ban more circumscribed facial hair. These are sometimes justified by claims of actual or potential safety concerns (e.g. the flammability of hair, the requirement to get a good fit for a gas mask, or the risk of it being taken hold of in a fight). This is defied among the sappers of the French Foreign Legion, however, who are permitted - nay, encouraged - to grow beards.
  • Defied by hipsters and "lumbersexuals" in the early 21st century, among whom a trend for large, meticulously groomed, Victorian-inspired beards and mustaches arose.
  • Also defied (or else deliberately invoked) in beard and mustache contests, where candidates vie at displaying the most flamboyantly groomed facial hair.