The NYT has an amusing article on Bolton’s mustache and the political history of the particular trim level.
I have a full beard and long hair past my shoulders, so I feel qualified to hold forth somewhat on this topic.
I hate shaving. Absolutely hate it. I started in middle school and it remained a painful, tedious process for over twenty-five years. I started with an electric razor, but moved to a blade as I got older. It never got comfortable, and I always cut myself and irritated my face. My neck was typically a series of open wounds. Stubble for me appears in 12 hours or so, so shaving every day was mandatory.
As I got older, I went longer and longer between shaves, and often stopped for a week or more during vacations. If I needed to go on a job interview, I would shave close, but typically went 3 days in between. Stubble became acceptable.
Then, around the time H was pregnant with L – when I was 39 or so – I grew a full beard during a vacation and simply neglected to shave it off. I had tried a beard in college once, but it itched so bad I gave up after a month. This time I persisted, and it paid off. After that first month, the itching stopped, and it was a revelation.
It helps, of course, that I have an occupation – professor – that has no special expectation on facial hair, or head hair, for that matter. Most men in my department maintain some facial hair (typically with some gray) like the chin beards that are fashionable lately, or advanced stubble, but I have the only full one.
So I come to the question – what does it mean to have facial hair or not? Well, for me, my long hair signifies – to me – that I’m not a suit. The beard is simply further evidence of this. Frankly, if you think about it, if a man has the genetics to grow facial hair, why fight it? Social expectations? Trends come and go. I wish I had not listened to every conforming male for decades that told me to trim that stubble.
Now I’m comfortable with my face. It expresses some of my personality. H says I look ‘blank’ without at least some facial hair, so there is that to consider as well. I have also noticed that people tend to take me more seriously now, even at work. I think it is more the gray than the beard, but I don’t think it hurts.
Ultimately, though, it is a personal decision. I couldn’t care less about fashion. Beards are a little more ‘in’ now, but so what?
If you are judging a person on appearance you are literally and figuratively engaging them at the shallowest level possible. Rather, examine if they are fair and compassionate. Little else matters, and I say that as an academic. Intelligence is common and easily bent to evil, and looks always deceive. A sense of justice and a care for decency, though, are rare and hard to replace.
So, moral: grow your hair any way you want that pleases you.