On Shaving

Written by Mike Parish, Illustrated by Dan Tarnowski
On Shaving

Shaving is both creative and destructive. Shaving can go as far as to create a new identity for a person, just like a good or bad haircut can. It is fascinating that such a short process can change the way a person looks, often with dramatic results. Aside from physical appearance, items such as bodybuilding or running or gaining weight take time to have an effect. But a shave is an instantaneous change and usually a welcomed one.

In On Formal Attire and Events, I stress the importance of wearing a suit, and how a suit, even though it is a piece of clothing, seriously alters a person’s perspective of the donning individual. There may be two candidates for a job, but if the right one is unshaven and wearing a t-shirt while the second, unqualified one is clean cut and wearing a suit, generally speaking, the second individual has a better chance of getting the position if the employer has to hire.

While it is important to take care of oneself and one’s appearance, there is something contradictory about this aspect of culture. We’re taught not to judge a book by its cover, but on a daily basis in our interactions with most individuals, we do exactly that, grouping everyone we see into different categories, consciously or not. It’s a way to relate to the world, a way to feel safe in one’s surroundings, a way to assess threats, to separate and create ourselves and our own identity.

Shaving faces, like mowing lawns, is a destructive process as well. In some cultures, such as the Amish, a man grows a beard after he gets married. The Amish are constantly picked on for their “backwards ways” but what’s so backwards about a beard?

A beard is a symbol of manhood. Though many claim that growing a beard is annoying, I would argue just the opposite; shaving aggravates. Sensitive skin aside, the process is irritating. With the right equipment it goes quickly, but have you ever tried to shave a couple of days overgrowth with a Bic razor?

But it’s not the equipment I’m complaining about because that would be trite. It’s the idea that so many people expect it to be done, and if it’s not done, they want to know why. People get offended. People think you don’t take care of yourself. Personally, I think beards are cool. And in the winter they are warm.

Why don’t we shave our heads the same way we shave our faces? Keep them smooth; don’t ever let our scalps get more than a day or two long? A lot of what shaving and having hair has to do with is aesthetics; the truth of the matter is that some people “look better” with hair or with a beard than others do. There is always a preoccupation with looks.

But how about we switch the sides every year, one year everybody has to shave to be accepted and the next everybody has to grow it all out? How come “not shaving” isn’t the norm?

I say, if it’s growing, let it grow out. There must be some function. Why constantly cut up your face, open the pores for bacteria and other pathogens to burrow in? Wouldn’t evolution have solved the problem of the beard if it were really a problem in the first place?

Or if you’re religious, don’t many religious figures have beards? We don’t ostracize them. In fact, we worship them.

Beards are an extension of an individual. No two beards, like no two people, are the same. Shaving makes sense if the beard gets in the way, like if you work in a place where there are a lot of spinning cogs and there is a danger of your beard getting caught. Shaving also makes sense if you want to play the game, and unfortunately, there is often a lot of game playing to be done.

I’ve met people who are deathly afraid of not shaving because they’re worried they won’t get chicks. Honestly, I’ve found only the right chicks by having a beard. It’s sort of a chick filter, if you will. If a girl likes your beard, chances are she genuinely likes you. But there are some that like beards like other girls like money. I met one like that one time. In the morning, both her and my beard was gone.

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