On my way down the hall to shave, the wife asked if I was going to shave. To maintain balance of power in the castle, shaving at that point was out of the question, so I said, “Well honey, I think I might just grow out the beard and be one them lumbersexuals.” She gave me that look women give you when you put your shoes on the wrong feet like a little kid to see how long it takes them to notice.
“Oh yeah.” I said, “You can look it up. All I need is a new flannel shirt and some work pants without holes in them.”
Lumbersexuals aren’t logger guys named Kenny who are built like coke machines that got thrown down a cliff. Lumbersexuals are handsome. They iron their flannels. Their axes don’t have pitch on the handle or dings on the edge. Unlike jog-bra women in sportswear catalogs, they rarely peer into the distance. Lumbersexual male models peer through their foreheads directly at the camera, one shoulder forward, head cocked to the side, with a look that’s half “Beware, I’m feral” and half, “I can’t wait to kiss myself in the mirror.” Their essential accessory is the beard.
Growing a beard for most of us means nothing more than not shaving. “I’m out of the military. I’m not shaving” or “I’m not shaving until the novel’s finished” or, “Because I don’t feel like it.” Our beards are fields that go to seed when our chins have better things to do. Lumbersexuals, on the other hand, are the Liberaces of beards.* We’re talking clean, trimmed, oiled, scented beards: no wood chips, no crumbs, no tartar sauce. And memes. Beard memes. “It’s good to have beardless friends. When you go out people assume you’re their leader.” And, “Excuse me ladies, my eyes are up here.” Or, “When two beards cross paths, the larger beard has the right of way.”
The movement has spawned a lucrative beardsploitation industry pushing hundreds of beard grooming products including vitamin supplements to help you grow your “man mane.” The premier ‘real men have beards’ company is the Dollar Beard Club (pretty much everything costs more than a dollar), founded by Chris, whose beard struts through hilarious commercials with Chris not far behind. They march past manly men and fawning, almost nude women who are helpless in proximity to the animal magnetism of beards. In one scene, Chris sees a lesser man shaving, yanks the guy’s T-shirt over his head and punches him in the gut. It’s a funny scene, but not as funny as the comments section where someone says, “Chris punches like a girl.”
Here’s the thing, trendy facial hair lacks the bad to the bone beardosity of Walt Whitman, Peter Freuchen, Edward Abbey, Frederick Douglas, Omar Mukhtar, Jerry Garcia, Odin, Fidel Castro (and Che), Blackbeard the Pirate or pretty much any Confederate general in the Civil War. None of those epic whiskers ever needed the Dollar Beard Club or its competitors: Striking Viking, Beardilizer, Beard Monster, Beard Envy, or Aphrodisiac Beard Balm. Personally, I like beards and support men who wear them with the caveat that a good beard, like good bluegrass music, shouldn’t be overdone. As a famous banjo picker said, being too close to perfection spoils what you’re striving for, “To be good, it has to suck a little.”
Ah … but all things must pass. Even in no-shave November, even with trendy axe-throwing boutiques in the big cities, the days of lumbersexuals are numbered. But no worries, beards have watched the rise and fall of all history’s epochs including the late, great urban cowboys who wore Stetsons and pointy boots when they roamed the wilds of 1980’s Manhattan.
What ever happened to Bud and Sissy, mechanical bulls, and the original Gilley’s—where are they now? Oblivion baby, gone as mastodons that roamed the late Pleistocene where Park Avenue is today. But beards remain, and when lumbersexuals march into the sunset of fashion extinction there will be a vacuum.
Pay attention all you bearded brothers long lining your summers away out in Cross Sound. The future is bright for ye who oil your man manes with halibut slime … Beard On! Slime is money. Bottle it. It’s only a matter of time before Fishingsexuals seize their moment in the Land of Opportunity.
*Actually, Liberace had a beard, but it was Betty White. At least, according to her.
• Dick Callahan is a Juneau writer. In April 2016, he won first place in the Alaska Press Club Awards for best outdoors or sports column in the state.