Have you seen the many faces of Urban Beard? When we started this project, we knew we wanted to showcase a trend that is growing within urban centres worldwide - but more than that, we wanted to capture why. How can facial hair connect individuals around the globe? We see it all the time - the same way football fans greet each other with a nod when wearing their team colours. The way motorcyclists offer a two-fingered wave to one another when they pass on the road.
How can such a diverse group of people speak the same language?
So we hosted an experiment.
In February, Urban Beard held a Toronto wide drop-in photoshoot open to the public; well, to beards. We couldn’t have predicted how dissimilar of a group would show up. Individuals from every ethnic background, industry, and corner of the GTA. We had lumberjacks and pirates, professionals and teenagers, bartenders and construction workers - people in finance all the way to axe throwing instructors. All with one thing in common: their fur.
Chris Edge, the founder of Urban Beard, initially grew a beard because he predicted the beard trend was headed our way and knew he could grow a good one. Five years later, he says “My beard really became a part of me. It’s a lifestyle. In or out of trend, I’ll be keeping mine.”
We spent the day with 75 bearded men, asking them why they grew their beards - when they first started, why this particular style, what it means to them and so on. One common theme could be extracted from the median. It wasn’t a static “thing,” it wasn’t about appearing “tough,” but for most men, it had grown into an integral part of their persona.
It was a conversation starter. An invitation to a pickup line. A “call to action,” to seek out other people in uncomfortable settings. Whether it started as laziness, boredom or a change, it grew into much more than that. It held power - and to harness it best, it needed guidance.
Once, beards symbolized wisdom and status: the transition from boy to man. But in the 1950s, that began to change. This likely started in World War 1, with the introduction of poison gas. It’s a dark topic, but a real one. Gas masks required a tight fit against your skin so beards were banned by militia around the world. Even today, beards are forbidden in the military for all individuals who are likely to see action. It created a persona - the clean shaven, chivalrous, hard working man: the American man. This image spread to the workplace, and today, many corporations require a shaved face as it is associated with elitism and professionalism.
This concept began to transform as businesses worked harder to find their niche. In an over saturated world where consumerism reigns, authenticity and uniqueness pushes itself to the forefront of our values. The beard is back. While trends come and go, this push to get in touch with yourself - to identify and express your character - runs far deeper than a “hipster fad.”
Matthew Kohler from The Good Men Project wrote a piece about his beard epiphany, “I felt a connection to something deeper, a movement perhaps. A movement guided by men who view the world from beneath magnificent beards.”
In a way, all of the men we talked to, enjoyed the commitment required to grow and maintain their beards. It’s 2018 and with a society working at the fastest pace in the history, everything we absorb, digest and do can feel temporary. We hold on to those things that require commitment and dedication: the gym every morning, Sunday brunch with the family - tradition, systems and routine. We grow attached. They keep us together in a world speeding by.
A beard is bigger than facial hair. It’s bigger than you and me. It’s greater than masculinity.
What’s your beard mean to you?
Check out some of our most noteworthy beard models on our Instagram page: @urban_beard