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Grin and beard it

They say the beard is on its way out, but MARTINA BORG says it may have planted stronger roots than most think…

Martina Borg
5 May 2016, 9:32am
The revival of the Bandholz beard – a riotous explosion of facebush, appropriated by the hipster crowd from log cabin dwellers – triggered off the beard trend but is already no longer as fashionable as it was, with men opting more for stubble now, Ludwig Saliba says.
The revival of the Bandholz beard – a riotous explosion of facebush, appropriated by the hipster crowd from log cabin dwellers – triggered off the beard trend but is already no longer as fashionable as it was, with men opting more for stubble now, Ludwig Saliba says.
Once the preserve of lumberjacks, reclusive heavy metal fans and Middle Eastern terrorists, the face rug has made its way back into the mainstream – thanks in no small part to endorsement by the likes of David Beckham, Robert De Niro and Jared Leto, to name but a few.

Facial hair has enjoyed such a revival in popular male grooming that the sight of a man wearing both his natural soup-strainer and a business suit merits not a second glance nowadays.

Kir Royal image consultancy and retail store owner Ludwig Saliba gave MaltaToday both a history lesson of all things beardy and a quick rundown of the various fashionable styles currently doing the rounds.

Saliba explained that the trend began with the revival of the Bandholz beard – a riotous explosion of facebush, appropriated by the hipster crowd from log cabin dwellers – some time ago. “The Bandholz beard is the one that triggered off the beard trend in recent times but is already no longer as fashionable as it was, with men opting more for stubble now,” Saliba said.

The return of the fuzz has spawned a bevy of beard care products and barber shops throughout the island, suggesting that growing a beard requires a greater amount of grooming and effort than one would perhaps expect it to.

That mistake might, Saliba points out, be because the Bandholz beard was initially associated with hipster circles – the kings of making somewhat challenging things appear effortless – but also because of increased exposure to the fashion industry through social media use.

Men, Saliba thinks, are more inclined to make an effort to look good because of this “I would say that it is no longer considered OK for men not to bother about what they’re wearing and the way they care for their facial hair.”  

Amongst the reasons for cultivating a set of chin-curtains, a Van Dyke or a full-on facial forest, men tend to quote convenience, its ability to hide imperfections and give bald men some contrast, as well as the enhanced aura of masculinity and gravitas it brings. Although increasingly common, beards still have a lingering association with counter-culture -  a fact highlighted by the new trend of local barber shops boasting in-house tattoo parlours.

Image consultant and stylist Marisa Grima disagrees with this view, however. Grima believes the trend is nothing to do with a “revival of masculinity” and everything to do with men becoming more fashion conscious.

“Beards have become something of an accessory, and men are more willing to try different images and styles, but beards are not synonymous with the stereotypical male image, particularly given the level of grooming and products some men purchase to keep them in shape,” Grima says. There is some truth in this: a number of barbers approached by the newsroom confirmed that some customers visit them for beard grooming as often as once a week, depending on the style of beard they opt for.

Grima’s modelling agency, Supernova model management, currently had one bearded model explained the stylist, adding that that requests had been pouring in ever since he was signed on.

“The trend seems to have died down abroad, with the look not being so popular on the runway any more, but there seems to still be strong interest in the local context,” she said.

Adrian Agius, who owns The Barber Room, says that he has noticed younger people showing an interest in growing a beard over the years, an observation seconded by Antonio’s Barber Shop owner Antonio Camilleri, who adds that the trend of facial hair has come hand in hand with men demanding professional grooming, rather than just growing beards for the sake of doing so.

A fair few men still rely heavily on having professional grooming services even without a beard, both barbers added.

Further fuelling the sense that men are becoming more fashion conscious is the growing popularity of men’s cosmetics...and, dare I say it, make-up.

Chemimart listed men’s cosmetics amongst its products that experienced the biggest growth in sales in 2015.

On this topic, Ludwig Saliba points out that men’s cosmetics are usually used to correct skin imperfections, as opposed to more creative uses. He, too, thinks that the trend is indicative of men becoming more aware of their appearance and always wanting to look their best.

“Younger men might be more willing to experiment with new products and trends, but I see men of all ages interested in improving their image. If a person is self-conscious due to a skin issue or patchy beard for instance, it can really affect their confidence and makeup can help them conceal what they perceive as an imperfection,” he adds.

Saliba adds that although creative and colourful makeup for men is available and has made some appearances on the catwalk, it was not likely to make such an impact in everyday life, given that it is deemed unacceptable at many work places.

The same can arguably be said about full beards, and in fact Saliba points out that men are often limited in the kind of facial hair they can grow, by their work place.

“Long stubbles or a goatee are usually as far as men are allowed to go in a corporate institution for instance,” Saliba said.
Tellingly, Camilleri points out that the most popular kinds of beards are the somewhat understated Ducktail beard, which sees the beard groomed to form a point under the chin, and a Vandyke beard – a long, twirly moustache coupled with a goatee.
Grima expects that beards will continue to be frowned upon by a large part of society.

“Standing out from the crowd means that people will judge you, but if it’s something you truly love, you shouldn’t let peer pressure dictate your next move,” Grima says.

(Additional reporting by Matthew Agius)

Gentlemen, choose your facial hair...

Charlie Hunnam sports a ducktail beard
Charlie Hunnam sports a ducktail beard
George Clooney shows how a full beard is worn
George Clooney shows how a full beard is worn
Brad Pitt sports a Van Dyck beard
Brad Pitt sports a Van Dyck beard
Martina Borg focuses on lifestyle and society issues
DealToday