B is for Beard-Love

We’re in Day Three of FanstRAvaganza 3 in the freeform tagteam chain! If you missed day Two, check out the posts at Melanie’s MusingsAn Obsessed Fanatic and Do I Have a Blog?. Also in Day Three, see my partners’ posts at FunkyBlueDandelion and I Want to Be a Pin-Up.

For the second instalment of the Armitage Alphabet we’re talking beards. A gorgeous 6”2’ man playing a valiant dwarf king undoubtably requires a good deal of make-up and prosthetics, or at least a credible beard. So, when Richard appeared at the Hobbit press conference in February 2011, he’d already started what he termed ‘a little facial hair experiment’ to try to limit the amount of artificial fuzz required to reprise the role of Thorin Oakenshield.

I must admit that I was in two minds about this new look. I’m not usually a fan of beards so when a new picture emerged some weeks later showing a wonderfully clean-shaven Richard at the Christchurch earthquake fundraising event, I secretly hoped he’d given up on the idea. I was wrong, of course, and a bearded Mr Armitage walked the red carpet at the Captain America premiere in New York. The gorgeous Recognise Magazine and Project Magazine photos that followed, not surprisingly, had fans all over the world declaring their beard-love.

So, what is it about beards that attracts women? Charles Darwin reckons it’s the actual process of sexual selection that may have led to beards and modern science seems to back this up. Modern biologists conclude there is evidence to show that a significant enough majority of women in the past have found bearded mates more attractive than smooth-skinned competitors. In other words, it was a simple game of numbers. Evolutional psychology thinks the beard developed to indicate sexual maturity and signal dominance, by making the jaw look bigger than in really was. Hmmm… I can sort of see what they mean!

Beards, of course, are imbued with meaning. On the up-side there’s wisdom, sexual virility, honour, masculinity and higher status. On the down-side, there’s lack of general cleanliness and loss of refinement. Dreaming of bearded men, apparently, is a good omen and good luck will follow! Yeah, I can definitely see that!

The bible is positively brimming with beards; Moses, Abraham, St Peter and Jesus all had beards. But although in some religions, such as Islam, beards are obligatory others prohibit the growth of facial hair.

History is full of beards too. From the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt to the princes of present day, beards have graced the faces of many a famous figure.

Beards have come in and out of fashion though. With a smooth face being regarded as a sign of effeminacy, beards were the done thing until Alexander the Great decided against them on grounds of health and safety and introduced the custom of smooth shaving. Alexander feared that beards could serve as handles for enemies to grab and hold a soldier as he was killed and thus ordered his troops to be clean-shaven. Maybe Thorin should take note!

However, philosophers retained their beard as a badge of their profession and all throughout history beards were grown in protest too. Men grew enormous beards during Queen Mary’s reign, for instance, which was a time of reaction against Protestant reform. However, the popularity of the beard declined in Western society and during the early eighteenth century most men of standing were clean-shaven… with perhaps a nice set of sideburns?

By the early twentieth century the beards fell out of fashion altogether and gave way to the moustache…

Or the goatee…

The American film industry with its clean-shaven, close cropped-haired heroes and the consequent mass marketing of the Gillette Safety Razors did for the beard until it was reintroduced to mainstream society by the counter-culture of the 1960s and ‘70s. The fashion for beards since the turn of this century was limited to the ‘two-day shadow’, no doubt inspired by Miami Vice (and, yes, I am old enough to remember being glued to the family TV set to watch that!).

I love designer stubble. Did I tell you Lucas North is my favourite RA character?

Designer stubble vs beard? Mmm, let’s see….

So, in the interest of scientific research, I thought I’d add a little poll to see what the favourite Richard Armitage facial hair style is.

No prizes for the winner, I’m afraid, but to feel virtuous knowing you have contributed to the gathering of some very important consumer data which may help avoid Richard to pick a facial hairstyle like this…

Heinz Christophel, Winner of the World Beard and Moustache Championship 

I’m afraid my inner jury is still out on this beard-thing. Although I’ll admit it gives Richard a certain gravitas, I think it obscures his good looks too much. I really miss seeing that delightful little smile of his  play around those gorgeous, cupid-bow lips and much prefer having a unobscured view of that wonderful strong jaw line. But, for those of you who are totally into Richard’s new look, I’ll leave you with my favourite beard-shot from the July 2011 Project Magazine photoshoot.

For more freeform contributions to FanstRA 3, see my partners’ posts at  FunkyBlueDandelion and I Want to Be a Pin-Up. Yesterday’s posts are at Melanie’s MusingsAn Obsessed Fanatic and Do I Have a Blog?. Tomorrow, the freeform tagteam continues at Something About Love (A), Me, My Thoughts and Richard Armitage and Do I Have a Blog?. All FanstRAvaganza 3 links can be found here.

[RA screencaps courtesy of RichardArmitageNet; Heinz Christophel photo courtesy of the official World Beard and Moustache Championship website]