Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Beards - pt. 3

As promised/threatened, time for partial-face beards.

The Lincoln.  An authentic Lincoln, requires sideburns connected with chin whiskers.  Cheeks may be partially, but not entirely shaven.  You won't find many of these outside Amish communities.  The good news: insofar as it works, the Lincoln's ok for older dudes.  In fact, it's only for older dudes.  The bad news: insofar as it works usually isn't all that far.   It shows, or so the non-Amish wearer may fancy, a certain individuality and a regard for history.  If done inappropriately, by someone under 50, let's say, it also shows an inability to face facts about one's individual face and/or a disregard for contemporary times.  The most promising non-Amish Lincoln hunting grounds are college campuses.  Philosophy, literature and physical sciences departments, specifically.  And no, physical sciences do not include athletics.

The PPM.  PPM stands for Peter, Paul and Mary.  Mary shouldn't count, but that's understood.  PPMs come in varying length and enjoy the widest spectrum of users.  Any age, any body type.  Unfortunatement, they are quite popular among groups that you probably don't wanna be associated with.  Like right wing, ignorant, tea party assholes.  Like right wing, ignorant Rush Limbaugh dittoheads.  Like angry, anti-government, gun toting ignorami.  Like neo-Nazis.  But they're also popular with normal people.  Generally, the idiot fringe who choose PPMs tend to wear them clipped awfully close.  A lot closer than PP&M ever did.  Well, a lot closer than P and P.

The goatee avec barbet/soul patch.  Like the PPM, but sans moustache.  For artsy types who don't wanna be taken for right wing idiots.  Advanced age not a problem.  Same for advanced girth.

The chin scraggle.  Take one of those cocktail hot dogs.  Slice it lengthwise twice, so you're left with a thin, flat strip from the middle.  Now paste it on your chin, making sure that some of it goes under said chin.  There ya' go!.  This is probably the hippest beard going.  That means you gotta be young; otherwise the look is glory days/trying too hard.  What makes the chin scraggle cool is that it's both minimalist and a representation of the wearer's interpretation of mimimalist.  That interpretation is played out in density, size, shape and over-chin/under chin ratio.  It's a scraggle, so too much density is no good.  If you see a dense chin scraggle, you may assume that the wearer doesn't really understand.  Sorta like reading about sex when you're twelve.  Or a priest.  So it's mainly about the other three elements.  (Wait a minute, forget what I said about priests.)  Size won't tell you much, other than you don't want it too big.  It's not a goatee.  And because it's a scraggle, the shape isn't terribly important, as long as it comes across somewhere more shaped than totally random but less shaped than topiary.  In other words, roughly symmetrical.  But over-chin/under-chin ratio (oc:uc) is signficant.  Tending toward a high oc:uc is common.  As such, it's less hip than a low ratio.  Generally, something under 1:1 is good.  The smaller the ratio, the hipper you probably are.  Just make sure you keep something above the chin line and don't let it get too far down the underside.

The turtleneck (or neck beard, if you prefer).  The t-neck means nothing above the jawline.  This is for two - and only two - types of dudes.  First, young, thin and European.  It tends to give them a hungry, vulturish look.  And I don't mean that in a good way.  The second type is older and stout.  What comes across is a certain vibe of prosperity.  Retired businessman/banker prosperity.  What also comes across is a look that says fur-covered storage area.  Different people will have different takes on what it is you're storing - nuts, diamonds, bon-bons, lice - but they'll all think you've got something up your neck.  Beware.

Now that my beard overview is as complete as it's going to get, what do you think?  Did you create pictures in your mind?  Did the pictures of the beards come with pictures of the wearers?  Did the pictures of the wearers come with associations?  Associations regarding the ages/body types I indicated?  And did those associations include character, lifestyle, and other non-distinct qualities?
I hope so.  And I suspect so.  And the reason I suspect so is stereotyping.

We're human.  (At least most of us are; I have to wonder about Ann Coulter.)  As humans, we are inferential, inductive creatures.  Try going a day without making an inference based on incomplete information about someone or something.  Try surviving without using inductive reasoning.  Cannot be done.  So I have not much sympathy when people whine about stereotyping.   Those complaints are nearly always lodged against unpleasant stereotypes - the avaricious Jew, the dumb blonde, the black criminal - but the argument is made against stereotypes in general.  Do we hear complaints against the positive stereotypes?  Hardly.  So argue against caricature or simplification, if  you like, but please don't call some representation you don't like a stereotype and expect to win your case simply on that assertion.  Having said all that, I understand how important it is to judge individuals individually.  Which means ignoring stereotypes.  Ignoring stereotypes is difficult.  It's probably a good deal more difficult if you can't admit to having and using them, so why not cop to that fact.  Then try.  Practice on beards.

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