Part 2: The Modern Man and the Beard

This is an image of one of my favorite artists, John Mark McMillan. He possesses an incredibly unique sound in Christian rock, delivering moving lyrics in a somber baritone timbre. His live recording captures the attention of my entire family. Nothing beats watching my young children rock out to "Heart Runs;" have you ever seen a three year old fist pump like it's 1988?

John Mark McMillan sports a full beard, which was uncommon through a majority of my life. While initially it appeared to be a short-lived trend, the beard as a popular male accoutrement has outlasted other trendy statements of the past. It will likely pass with time, but it's longevity through many seasons of the 21st century deserves a short investigation.

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The image of these Oscar winning Hollywood icons serves as evidence for a possible catalyst to the beard movement.  It was 2013 and Ben Affleck had won an Oscar for his production of Argo.  The beard was worn proudly by not only Ben Affleck and George Clooney, but other Hollywood stars that night, and supposedly so began the rebirth of facial hair.  This is a simple explanation, but one that doesn't quite penetrate the surface of the movement, I believe the truth lies deeper.

t began in the autumn of 2001, images of the modern warfighter sporting facial hair appeared on our television. US Special Forces embedded with horse-mounted Afghan warlords and covered by US air power militarily dismantled the ruling Afghan Taliban.  Our soldiers wore beards as a tool to blend in with their unconventional allies, and in so doing, reinvented the image of the American warfighter.  

After fifteen years of distant war, the American subconscious is remarkably familiar with the image of a dusty, sometimes bloody, bearded special operator.  Few would doubt the masculinity and heroism of these war fighters.  Most urban men can't wear body army and carry an M4 through foreign lands, but they can grow a beard.  They don't do it out of solidarity, but rather as a subliminal response to the question of their utility.  As I indicated in Part 1: The Farmer and the Plow, two industrial revolutions have faded the unique nature of Man. Men don't have a plough to guide, a West to win, or an anvil to strike. But unlike all other human classes, we are uniquely well-equipped to grow facial hair. The beard is an outward sign of a modern man's rebellion against industrial automation and blurred gender identity. While US special operators may have unwittingly launched this trend, its roots extend much deeper. The beard is antique, and that antiquity connects men with their past relevance.  

William Wisehart