The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 41.0°F | Overcast

The Rewards of a Distinguished Beard

Naveen Sunkavally

As a practitioner of the beard and one who knows, I must say that the column by Anders Hove '96 ["Shaving for Freshman Success," August 27] about the beard during orientation week struck a raw nerve in me. Typically those who complain against beards are the very people who can't grow them in the first place.

A beard (for men) is like a well-endowed midsection: You've either got it or you don't. And those who don't have it sometimes descend into furious, animated mudslinging that masks an inner frustration.

You've probably known these types of people. These always paw their chin insistently and consistently trying to eke out of their peach-fuzz a semblance of the real thing. At night, they probably take a magnifying glass to their faces and look in the mirror trying to spot and nourish the slightest bit of growth. And then in the morning, after a night of frustration, they awake fresh and ready for a new day of mudslinging.

It probably makes sense that the people who can't grow beards are also those that will lose their hair the fastest. They probably realize that themselves, and the realization fuels their attacks even more.

And now for the benefits. Beards are extremely flexible. There's a beard for every type of personality and attitude, except for those people who can't grow them in the first place. If you want to impart an aura of erudition and nobility and philosophical genius on those around you, you can grow a nice full-face beard such as the one worn by Karl Marx. or you can opt for the smart and subtle yet stylish goatee - such as the one worn by Prodigy's horned singer. You might want a knee-length such as ones seen on Orthodox Jews, or you might choose one that runs down along your sideburns and then underneath. The options are virtually limitless.

And those who wear beards are in distinguished company. Doctorow, Grant, Monet, Degas, Whitman, Ginsburg, Renoir, Brahms, Carnegie, Zola, Robert E. Lee, Hemingway, Sean Connery, Charleton Heston, and countless others - in short, famous people from every walk of life have worn beards.

Others may choose to become seasonal beard wearers. They can take advantage of the beard in winter to keep themselves warm, and in the summer, they can remove their beard. After all, the chief purpose of hair is for warmth - why not take advantage of what's been given to you to use?

Beards also represent a greater communion with nature. Why fight a losing battle? Your hair, provided you have some, is one of the few constants in life. It starts growing from the bright-white-light-breaking of birth, and it stops a couple minutes after you've grown pale and cold. There is no reason to fight the inevitable growth of hair.

Those who shave every day are probably subconsciously not at ease with life, with nature, and with death. They try to fight time crudely and viciously with a blade, cutting and stripping away at their skin - and to what avail? People who shave every day must feel as if they're always on the run - that they have to always catch up to something, or outpace something else - these people usually turn out to be the characteristicly overworked, and slightly overweight 40-something management types caught up in mid-life crises. Like grass stomped on and mowed, beaten and whacked at, the beard returns and shall returneth forever more to haunt those who can and try to deny it.

From personal experience, I also have to say that the beard provides a great intellectual stimulant. On those long, problem sets at night, all I have to do is tug at my beard a little, or paw the underside of my chin with my thumb - and lo and behold, an intellectual epiphany will come to me. I'm serious. Old problems will reformulate themselves in new ways, and clear, new understandings will open up to your eyes. There's just something about pulling at your beard that provides an extra intellectual boost for which even coffee and Jolt can not compensate.

So my final advice to all is simple. Don't fight it. The time spent fighting it is not simply not worth it. Grow a beard if you can, and the beard will reward you. Extremely light-skinned males may, however, look ridiculous with beards.