Jun 08, 2012
By Joel Moskowitz
I left town recently for a long business trip and decided after a ten-year stretch to shave my beard. I’ve pretty much sported a beard most of my life. I’ve tried different lengths and widths over the years. I determined after one or two tries of letting it get Hasidic Rebbe long, that the texture of my beard was too thick and thus uncomfortable so my dream of looking like Theodore Hertzl never panned out. I kept mine closely cropped “a number 4” on the trimmer.
One reason I kept that beard all these years is because I am self conscious of the shape of my head and felt the beard helped square a round face. I experimented by trying to copy styles; Al Pacino in Serpico, Michael Douglas in China Syndrome, Robert De Niro in Deer Hunter. I tried a goatee it was a disaster. The moustache alone made me look like a Halloween pumpkin with dirt under its nose.
When I was a kid and was able to grow a full beard before my older brothers I wore it as a badge of masculinity. When the hair on my head was thicker and I wore that longer, the close-cropped beard made me feel downtown, urban. I definitely felt the beard made me “look” Jewish and I sensed that people picked up on it even if the name Moskowitz did not give it away at first. To people I met from places other than New York my beard identified me as a New Yorker though sometimes some guessed wrongly that I hailed from Los Angeles.
There was a time when facial hair was pretty common, but considering that it’s been about 100 years since we’ve elected a president with any, it’s safe to say that bearded-Americans are in the minority. After all, the shaving industry accounts for billions in revenue and I’m referring just to the men’s products. It is widely known that Gillette spent $1 billion on research for their Fusion razor. With that kind of cultural and commercial pressure it is safe to say that those that do keep facial hair have some guts or are trying to make a statement.
I spent some time trying to figure out my statement or if I had one. Besides my vanity and self-consciousness, men in my family have had beards for generations and so it was a natural step for me to take. However, there was no religious pressure on me to grow one and oddly, I admit that when I was younger I felt rebellious having one.
Now I simply feel like I wore my beard as a mask, mysteriously hiding something. Now I have liberated my face to face those demons. I have not gone completely facial hairless, I left a moustache and soul patch. I like the look and am getting used to it. I can see sticking with this a while. There’s and old saying that if you change places you change your luck. Maybe to change your luck you have to change your look.
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