Grow a beard: It's good for the environment and your wallet



Ed Gillespie

Each year in the UK we waste £320m on razors alone, so surely it's time jaw warmers came back into fashion?

He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man.

So said Beatrice in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing and, as a long-term sporter of a full chin's worth of facial fluff (and occasional wearer of a highly dubious "mo" for for charity), I can but agree. According to social psychologists, beards also convey a sense of authority, masculinity, strength and sincerity and once the Romans started shaving them off they quickly became associated with non-conformity.

So is it any wonder that growing one might be considered the height of Frucool – that is being both frugal and cool?

Now I know what you're thinking. In following my previous foray extolling the virtues of local beer with a missive about beards, this whole Frucool blog series is merely a ploy to make hairy real ale fans trendy. What next you ask? The Frucool socks and sandals combo? But when you look at what we spend each year on removing the follicular sproutings from our faces – £320m a year in the UK on razors alone – you start to realise there's a Frucool rationale for nursing a jaw warmer into life.

Beards have swung wildly in and out of fashion over the years. Ancient Greeks were nothing without their whiskers (eight out of 10 Ionians said their cats preferred them), and the Spartans actually used to punish criminals by shaving off parts of their beards. This was probably to make them look ridiculous or more effeminate. Or like Noel Edmonds. Which would be punishment enough for all but the most heinous crimes. Conversely, Tsar Peter the Great introduced a beard tax in 1705 in an attempt to encourage Russian men to smarten up and move with the rest of Europe from fuzzy-framed chops towards a fleshier faced freedom.

But the real death knell for the popular beard was the unholy alliance between the mass marketing manipulators of the advertising industry and the razor blade manufacturers. Ever since planting the first seeds of insecure doubt around the effect your bushy bristles might have on the opposite sex, the sharp practices of the Mad Men have been seducing us with ever closer shaves. These must by now be removing thin slivers of our faces in the process.

Following the Mach 3 (three times closer!), Quattro (four blades!) and now Fusion (five blades! Missed opportunity here for use of the name "Quintessence"), we must be approaching the limit of how many cutting surfaces you can jam on to the head of a disposable plastic razor.

Apart from the expensive throwaway cutting equipment though, shaving also involves a panoply of lotions, ointments, foams and gels for before, during and after you've taken the blade to your skin.

Apart from the economic and environmental cost of all the aerosols and packaging involved, the irony is that softening your stubble with warm water and then lubricating your skin with a little olive oil is probably just as effective as all the pricey potions they splurge so much marketing budget on convincing us to buy (one leading company in the UK plans to spend £35m over the next four years alone). Shaving foam is arguably more useful as a visual guide to which bits of your face you've already scraped, rather than for any friction reducing properties it might provide.

Admittedly, current high-profile public beards in the media don't necessarily convey a particularly Frucool image. The bewildering blundering of both Joaquin Phoenix and David Bellamy, in their services to rap music and climate change activism respectively, aren't exactly role model material. But that shouldn't stop us at least considering abandoning the expense and environmental impact of shaving for a bit and indulging ourselves in a bit of ruminative furry chin-stroking.

I'll leave the final words on Frucool facial hair to the psychologist Robert Pellegrini. His investigations into public perceptions of hirsute men found that

the male beard communicates an heroic image of the independent, sturdy, and resourceful pioneer, ready, willing and able to do manly things. In conclusion, it may very well be true that inside every clean-shaven man there is a beard screaming to be let out. If so, the results [of this work] provide a strong rationale for indulging that demand.

Ed Gillespie is a director at communications agency Futerra and has travelled the world without planes for his Slow Traveller series

admittedly - wprawdzie

associate - łączyć, kojarzyć (z)

blundering - nieporadny

bristle - szczecina, włosie

conversely - na odwrót

convey - komunikować, przekazywać (informację)

death knell - godzina śmierci

effeminate - zniewieściały

extol - wychwalać

fluff - puch, meszek

follicular - meszkowy

foray - wyprawa, najazd

friction - tarcie

frugal - oszczędny, skromny

fuzzy-framed - niewyraźny, rozmyty

hath - has

heinous - potworny, ohydny

hirsute - owłosiony, włochaty

lubricate - nawilżać, smarować

missive - orędzie

panoply - cały zestaw; przepych, pompa

pricey - kosztowny, drogi

rationale - przesłanki, podstawa

resourceful - zaradny, pomysłowy

ruminative - zatopiony w myślach

seduce - uwodzić

sliver - okruch, okrawek

smarten up - doprowadzać do porządku

splurge - szastać pieniędzmi

sprouting - pęd, kiełek

stubble - szczecina

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