The Sorta Beard

I thought I’d have some fun this Friday morning and post something in The Gaze category, where I talk about how women look at men.

Gerry ButlerWe’re so used to the Male Gaze in movies and TV — meaning that the viewer is assumed to be male and therefore women on the screen are portrayed that way — that if we keep showing the flipside maybe the common way of doing things will balance out eventually. Plus, I’ve read articles for years portraying men as very visual creatures and tacking the reason for all the female skin all over the media on that. The same articles often explain that women are just not visual creatures, and say this is why women can be attracted to older men and why men are not attracted to older women.

Anecdotally I think these assumptions are untrue. I can point to my recent post on the James Marsden interview where he said that older woman can be sexy, and my other posts in The Gaze category have shown that women do ogle men. Women are indeed visual creatures, maybe not to the extent that men are, but we shouldn’t discount it altogether.

What does this have to do with facial hair? Cultural writer Brian Appleyard just posted the article ” Stubble? Beard? What Is It?” on his blog about how he dislikes what I call the “sorta beard,” short-cropped facial hair that doesn’t quite qualify as a full-on beard. Appleyard is not a facial hair fan:

“The result, gentlemen, is that you end up looking as scruffy and suspect. . . and you just can’t wear a suit when your chin’s in that state, not without looking like The Defendant.”

Eric DaneSome of the commenters disagreed, but no one really cited any examples of how this look can work well by defining the chin and, like bangs, accentuating the eyes. Two cases in point: Gerard Butler and Eric Dane, both of which sport sorta-beards and look good doing it. Appreciating facial hair is partly a generational thing and, of course, partly personal preference. I find it interesting how we as a society try to accentuate gender differences by having women remove nearly all body hair, but then we don’t continue that idea by finding male facial hair “manly.” Maybe if we were more comfortable with overt testosterone markers like facial hair, then we wouldn’t be so apt to infantilize women into being hairless.

I’m not saying that clean-shaven men aren’t sexy, they are, but Tom Selleck, often considered to be one of the sexiest men alive, doesn’t look as good without the mustache and it’s all about his eyes. They’re a great feature, but they just don’t have the same visual impact without the mustache.

The same thing is true of Gerard Butler, who has sported quite a range of facial hair from being clean-shaven in the movie Shattered to the Leonidas’ Moses-beard in 300. So you’ve probably by now realized that I picked that scruffy photo of James Marsden deliberately. Facial hair doesn’t work for every guy, just like every hairstyle doesn’t for all men and women, but if Gerard Butler and Eric “McSteamy” Dane’s fanbases are any indication, a whole lot of women disagree with Appleyard.

6 Responses to “The Sorta Beard”

  1. I’d love to see that article if you ever track it down.

    No underarm hair is creepy and a bit infantilizing. Americans are into hyper-grooming the gamut, not just body hair but teeth whitening, hair coloring, tanning etc. I really think that waxing has to be a form of torture. I’m not calling for people to eschew grooming altogether, just hyper-grooming that denies basic human physical characteristics. There has to be some kind of happy medium between Chewbacca and total body waxing. I can’t imagine having to shave one’s face everyday.

    I’m also not saying that a man *has* to be furry to be sexy. 🙂 There are many angles to sex appeal and I wouldn’t box in men any more than I’d want to see women boxed in to a certain ideal.

    I’m also happy to see how the business casual look has caught on in many businesses. In certain situations the perfect tie can look great (there’s one photo of Butler in a black suit and a light blue tie that really calls out his eye color), but it obscures the adam’s apple in yet another example of fashion trying to “tame the savage manly beast within.”

    That being said, I also think that having to wear pantyhose everyday is just plain evil.

  2. I saw an article just last week that claimed some study had debunked the myth about women being less visually stimulated than men. It had to do with monitoring brain activity while looking at sexy pictures, but now I can’t find it.

    I think Americans have a phobia of body hair. I think it’s kind of creepy when I see young male actors with their shirts off and even their armpit hair has been waxed away.

  3. Ooooh, Gerry….

    I’m sorry, did you write some insightful blog post? I didn’t get past the picture of Gerry. 😉

    Seriously, I love your “female gaze” posts, not just for the HUNKY pictures you post, but for the in depth study of women. We certainly CAN be visual creatures.

    I’ve never met Gerry Butler – smelled his skin or touched his face or felt his breath in my ear – ahem, sorry…

    Where was I? Oh, but that doesn’t stop me from ogling him and having my body react in delicious ways when I see him in photos or movies. And that scruff!! *thud*

  4. I think, Lisa, you’re probably right about the infantilization issue, because the harshest enforcers of the no-body-hair dictate are the WB and other networks that cater to young-adult audiences.

    I used to have a serious fetish for facial hair (Tom Selleck…. mmmmm). In fact I think the goatee was my ex’s most attractive feature. Of course he had a round head and fat cheeks and the goatee gave his face definition. Without it he looked like a bowling ball.

    These days I am married to a remarkably sleek and hair-free man, who, by virtue of his native American genetics, couldn’t grow a beard if he wanted to. The one time he grew a mustache for a Halloween costume, it looked creepy and we were both relieved when he shaved it off. It just depends on the guy.

    All of that digression aside, I’m cool with the sorta-beard look, but I think the guys should at least shave their necks. It looks dingy with that neck hair.

  5. I don’t equate growing a beard with letting it all go, so, yes, keeping it trimmed is important. My husband has a goatee and it balances out the bottom of his face and draws attention to his great eyes.

    I do tend to be drawn to the edgier look of facial hair, but there are other ways to achieve that. And for your sleek guy, those same genetics possibly gave him great cheekbones. Who’d want to cover that up? 🙂

  6. I love the sorta beard especially when it’s on the Gorgeous Gerry Butler and I’m definitely a gazer. Not harm came to admiring a good looking man.

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