Why Must Spring Take Our Beards?

Chicago Tribune’s RedEye March 18, 2011

There are a lot of things I love about the men of Chicago. I love the way they proudly wear their Bears/Cubs/Sox/Blackhawks hats even when their team was crushed the night before. I love the steely eyed resolve they display on frigid mid-January nights waiting for an “L” train. But there’s nothing I love more about Chicago men than the beards they sport.

Chicago is a city of beards, at least in the winter. Men grow thick, undeniably sexy beards to shield them from developing hypothermia every time they step outside. Warmer than a scarf and way less creepy than a ski mask, seasonable beards have become a staple to Chicago men. And I couldn’t be happier about it!

Give me a guy with a beard and I’m fanning myself like a fading Southern belle in a Tennessee Williams play.

Perhaps it’s the cavewoman part of my brain left over from millions of years of looking to attach myself to the biggest, hairiest alpha male in the tribe, but there is nothing sexier than a great beard on a man. Beards instantly telegraph virility, strength and capability. Beards are for lumberjacks and Greek kings and other gorgeous testaments to masculine potential. They are for pioneers and epic characters that do and accomplish heroic feats. Hercules had a beard. Hemingway did too. The pirate Blackbeard was said to place flaming coils of rope into his beard during battle to scare the hell out of his enemies (a fearsome image, certainly, though altogether impractical when it came to makeout parties).

A man with a beard seems to be the kind of man who would defend your honor, bravely rid your house of snakes and spiders, or at least call you a cab in the morning.

There are other, lesser breeds of facial hair. The soul patch springs to mind (with a shudder). Some women prefer their men with stubble. They love what that scruffy five o’clock shadow represents: that bad-boy, rebel-without-a-cause defiance of razors and (probably) society. I love it for its potential. Stubble is no more than a baby beard growing sexier with every tiny follicle development.

Woe to the man who can’t grow a beard—those poor bastards who suffer the affliction of growing facial hair in patches or strange, sudden hair color changes. He is reduced to a lifetime of never realizing his full potential. The ancient Greeks (I think it was the Greeks, anyway) had a saying: “There are two kinds of people in this world that go around beardless—boys and women—and I am neither one.”

Alas, spring is approaching and as the last icicles thaw, beards will return to the endangered list. I beg you, you noble, gorgeous men who grew your winter whiskers with only the intention of keeping your face safe from frostbite: Don’t shave! Keep those glorious beards through summer. Do it to keep Chicago beautiful. Do it because it’s way easier than shaving. If nothing else, do it for me.

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