I’ve been growing my beard for almost forever but I think I took it a notch higher a few years back. Occasionally I do keep beards in times past either because I got busy or lethargic to go to the Barber’s shop. My look usually evolves every five years or so and it depicts the identity I want to portray at the time. In my teens and twenties, I used to have this thinly carved beard travelling through my cheeks and linking my hair to my beard (called teddy) and a few years back I thought I’d outgrown that! I didn’t really know what to do and I knew sooner or later, my youthful days will be over and I didn’t want to keep enforcing youthful looks and make a caricature.
I wanted to transit to the next stratum in life in every sphere and the beard thing just came. I left the beard and after some time I felt comfortable with it. For me, it was a coincidence that growing beard became fashionable at the time I started because I would have been the last person to join the “beard gang” or do something that would put me on the spot ordinarily!
I did not really encounter any challenges during the beard growth journey. You don’t have to do anything (all things being equal) to grow your beards asides combing and applying creams.
The only thing closest to a challenge is that people who know you will initially weary you to get rid of it! They will rebel against your identity because people have a propensity to resist change! Maybe they also perceive that you are becoming a dissent or a fanatic or you are trying to just indulge. Again, it tends to put you on the spot. People become leery of you because of the image we have of terrorists as people who keep beards. I have heard people call me Osama almost without thinking!
I’d rather be called Obama! But as you persist, it doesn’t take long for people to identify your authenticity with the beard.
Keeping beard for me transcends fashion. It is an identity. But I guess fashion too is all about identity as well. My beards tend to make me feel royal and classy! I also believe it suits my identity as a creative. It stands me out from the heap. And I have also come to realize that there is a physiological role it plays— it saves me from bumps and ageing that comes from shaving patches. It tends to even make you more handsome overtime. And of course, for some people—it is a trend—call it fashion or style if you will. For me, it is an identity—an expression of me at the time.
For my beards, I have not necessarily been discriminated upon! But I know it would have been more difficult to nurse beards if I hold a 9-5 in a bank or an organization where they want everyone to be clean shaven and look more formal (whatever that is!). Also considering that a lot of people in the creative industry do keep beards, sometimes there is this perception that keeping beards is some sort of frivolity. They forget that in times past noble and pious men wore beards and still do! But I think that misconception is changing. Many organizations now allow their staffers to sport beards. The culture of the workplace is evolving all the time. Besides, I don’t think there’s too much discrimination in Nigeria because Muslims abound here and Islam does encourage growing of beards! You might have a problem if you don’t want to be perceived as a Muslim but for me, I couldn’t care less!
When it comes to ladies and beards, some do love beards while others don’t give a hoot. A lot wouldn’t mind having their guy nurture beards as long as it is clean and well groomed. I have had to endure the ignominy, nay good fortune, of a young lady drawing my beards in public in curiosity and sheer admiration! They feel they have demystified you once they are able to do that!
Like I mentioned earlier, you have to be explicit in affirming your identity – who you are and people will accept it over time. In the Jewish tradition, or should I say Judaism, Rabbis do grow beards and it’s a sign of piety. And that is the root of Christianity and Islam. Today, the Ayatollahs and Imams wear beards too and it is an integral part of Islam that is even believed to attract blessings. Pop culture has also endorsed beard and I think it started with Rick Ross. It’s now fashionable to grow beards and the exclusivity and uniqueness that beard-growers used to enjoy has waned! So it’s all about being truthful to oneself and affirming your identity per any given time.
Again, I’ll say keeping beard makes you good looking overtime, it brands you and gives you a unique persona, it protects you from bumps and helps you to look younger as you avoid patches that stems from shaving all the time! One more thing: you can have something to toy with when you are disconcerted or you are just ruminating over the next big thing! It’ll be fun too if your spouse sees it as a veritable tool to pastime!
Opeyemi Philips An Author, Voice Talent, Social Crusader and Entrepreneur with a knack for online businesses. You can connect with Opeyemi on Twitter @opphilips. You can also reach out to him on his business pages on Instagram: @whatfootballteaches and @naijapodcast.