“He that hath no beard is less than a man.” William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing
Are beards still popular in RVA?
Historically, facial hair goes in and out of fashion and some say we reached peak beard several years ago. Its death has been announced many times since.
Celebrities are mostly clean-shaven these days, hipsters came and went (I think), the pandemic is over, people are going back to the office and we have lots of new arrivals from north of Richmond.
So has the beard survived here? Is facial hair on its scruffy last legs in Richmond and sent the way of man buns?
Well, I asked several of Richmond’s leading style experts and the head of a local beard group to weigh in on the current state of beards in our city.
Their verdict: beards are alive and well and thriving in Richmond.
The city is crawling with beards on men from all walks of life, the professionals tell us. You see more and more facial hair everywhere you look and not just at the breweries or corner pubs, they say.
David Foster, co-owner of High Point Barbershop & Shave Parlor in the Fan, says beards are still very much a thing in Richmond. He says it’s more rare to see a cleanly shaved face nowadays.
“If we have eight clients in the shop, at least five have some level of a beard,” he notes.
President of the RVA Beard League, Chad Roberts, says beards are as popular as they have ever been.
“I’ve seen more guys sporting beards since the pandemic than before,” says Roberts. “Just walk around any part of town and you’ll see guys of all stripes wearing all sorts of styles of facial hair. RVA is a beard-friendly city.”
(By the way, the RVA Beard League is not just a group of guys with beards. It’s a social community service organization of men and women who have raised and donated more than $100,000 to support local charities.)
An estimated 33% of American males say they always keep a beard and another 27% say they sometimes have a beard. Those numbers might be low for Richmond, according to local beard- grooming professionals.
Douglas Morton, a barber at Parkside Barber Shop & Grooming Lounge in Glen Allen and a beard wearer himself, says 50% of their customers have beards. He sees more bearded clients than two years ago.
Anthony Carpenter, managing partner and head barber at Hell’s Bottom in the Fan, sees plenty of fuzzy faces walking around town.
“I do think men had a lot of time to experiment over quarantine so in that way, yes I have seen more of them trying to do something different with their facial hair,” he tells us.
Beards have been called makeup for men but facial hair has played an important role in many cultures.
In ancient Greek, for example, beards were signs of virility, manhood and wisdom. In ancient Egypt, the beard was regarded as a symbol of wealth, power and importance. When the Vikings raided across Europe, they did so with some of the most legendary beards in history. They used their beards to strike fear into the hearts of their opponents wherever they went.
There might be something to that still today — well maybe not the Viking part. Studies have demonstrated that having a bead dramatically alters how a man is perceived.
A study published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology said both sexes judge men with beards as older and more masculine and describe them as generous, sincere, industrious and self- confident.
Multiple studies showed women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven ones and perceive them as more compatible for marriage and make better fathers. Women find men with beards more attractive and to be of a higher social status than men who keep their faces clean-shaven.
Maybe Shakespeare, a beard man himself, was on to something with his quote. In his famous play, we hear that men with no facial hair are not manly enough to satisfy one of his female character’s desires.
Parkside’s Morton doesn’t disagree.
“Beards display a more manly appearance and more men are discovering that women find men with beards more attractive. And for the younger guys, beards help them appear more mature or older than they might be.”
Foster from High Point is also not surprised by the study findings.
“Men and women find facial hair attractive, without a doubt. A well-groomed beard is an extension of someone’s style and a glimpse into how a person carries themselves.”
However, while lauding the benefits of facial hair, Foster did feel compelled to add that the average guy is lazy when it comes to personal grooming and “shaving daily sucks” so those might also be reasons why men sport beards.
So who are these generous, self-confident, attractive men walking the streets of Richmond?
A beard guy himself for a better part of a decade, Foster says he sees mostly middle age men from all walks of life — from shirt and tie clients to artists — in his shop.
Morton sees the same customers, saying it’s a 60-40 split between professional and working class guys.
And what kind of beards are our stylists seeing?
Morton sees an increase in trimmer beards and Foster says certain styles can become trendy, but there’s only so much you can do with facial hair.
Hell’s Bottom’s Carpenter agrees: “Beards have stayed pretty consistent. Men have to work with what they have and it’s our job to sculpt the beard that fits their face shape.”
So what’s the future of the beard in Richmond? Will sporting a beard continue to rise or is it due for a fall?
The consensus is beards will never go out of fashion, at least not in this city.
“I can’t imagine there’s any reason for beards to become less popular,” says Foster.
Morton also feels beards will become more popular. Men are starting to take better care of themselves and have more options today on how to groom themselves for a better appearance, he adds.
We’ll leave it to Beard League president Roberts to sum up today’s beard culture in RVA:
“Beards are a hallmark of the creativity and vibrancy of Richmond’s culture today. It’s not just a hipster thing, and has never been just that. A beard is as creative an expression as choosing which clothes to wear or how to cut your hair, or what makeup (if any) women put on. Richmond is a city of creative people, and though the popularity of beards may wax and wane over time, beards will continue to be a part of Richmond and its culture.”
Note: No-Shave November which raises awareness of men’s health issues including prostate and testicular cancers is next month. So for all you clean-shaven Richmond men, this might be a good reason and time to consider lifting your social status, increase your self-confidence and who knows, impress a potential partner, by growing a beard.
Photo by Jay Wennington