How Beards Pander to a Double Standard

Photo by Sarah Cervantes on Unsplash

It’s interesting how trends shift over the years. Where a mustache was once stylish, we now see it as an oddity. Hairstyles for women go in and out of fashion. Hoop earrings and winged eyeliner dart in and out of vogue.

Where once a bearded man would stand out as unusual (or ungroomed, depending), we have an entire culture praising the bearded man — and an entire line of beard-related grooming products to profit from the trend and support our bearded fellows. Instagram accounts with beard-worship are all the rage, and I know many a man and woman with a lusty fantasy for a bearded man.

What’s interesting to me about the bearded trend is the double standard that applies when it comes to trends between men and women.

With men, choosing to be bearded or clean-shaven seems to be strictly a matter of preference. With women, everything we do is loaded with meaning.

Women who don’t wear makeup are either naturally beautiful or not trying hard enough. Women that wear makeup are either being deceptive or not wearing it the right way (too much, not enough). Comments about how easily women can deceive men with our makeup trickery is a common thread among trolls.

But isn’t a beard just like makeup for the modern man?

After all, a beard covers up a good portion of the face, as makeup does for women. Why does one get to be a matter of personal preference while the other is loaded with meaning?

I don’t make a lot of assumptions about a bearded man based on the beard alone, but the comments I hear around women and makeup- from both men and women- is interesting when you think about it. Why does choosing to wear or not wear makeup say anything about who we are as individuals? Why can’t a feminist or a lesbian or a sporty woman wear makeup without it meaning anything other than the fact that she enjoys it and feels good about herself when she’s wearing it?

When a woman crafts her face into a work of art, why does it have to mean anything other than the fact that it made her feel good to do it? If a woman chooses not to wear makeup, why can’t that also be taken at face value rather than interpreted in other ways?

Confidence, after all, is our most beautiful accessory.

If a man feels good in a beard, that’s great. If a woman wants winged eyeliner and a contoured face, good for her. If a woman wants a natural face free of cosmetics, good for her, too.

Trends will keep shifting, and what is beautiful today might just seem ridiculous tomorrow. That’s fine. We can at least have fun with it now and laugh at it later.

But the absolute worst thing we can do is to judge someone else for doing the thing that makes them feel good about how they look, or to take ourselves too seriously.

Beauty trends are a great way to track change from decade to decade, but the rules around them also track our social progress. It looks like we still have a long way to go when personal choices for women come under such harsh scrutiny while personal choices for men are still lauded as a personal prerogative. It’s interesting when we examine it.

Maybe beards are just make-up for the modern man. Maybe they aren’t. Beauty trends for each gender should really be all about what makes us feel confident. Dare I even say pretty.

You rock that face flair, modern man. But let us have our make-up sans judgment, too.