Choosing to shave (or not) can be a symbol of starting over, rebellion, or freedom. I think it is a great idea to link people and their worldwide experiences and cultures through the simple act of shaving since it means so much in different ways to men everywhere.
I shave regularly i.e. once every 2 days because society expects me to look “presentable” and I actually enjoy it as a ritual to clean myself. This ritual allows me to relax before falling asleep or helps me freshen and wake up, ready for the day ahead. I don’t like crappy plastic disposable razors but a well maintained straight razor gives an incredible shave and I like the idea of partaking in a ritual that our for-bearers would have done too. I first shaved at the age of 14, but started regularly when i was 16, when my dad showed me this old rite of passage.
Shaving, or lack of, can also reveal a lot about one’s identity and also our social status. For centuries in Europe the beard was always associated with either religious men or peasants, who couldn’t wash themselves, as hot water or clean water for that matter until the late 1800’s was a real luxury available only to few privileged and powerful. Thus the sign of clean shaven face became standard within the financial circles and high ranking professions as a visual indicator of their wealth and social status.
However, in the Middle East in particular, many men consider it a masculine feature to have a well groomed beard, but they keep them fairly short unlike the so called hipster beards that have recently become popular in Europe. Also from a religious point of view the beard is often linked to religious figures and wise men, but the style is important too. If the beard is long and unkempt this can show the wearer has more devout and puritanical belief yet if it is well groomed then this can show more liberal and progressive views. Of course though this is not always the case and as men we have many other reasons to grow or shave our beards. The beard is such a diverse cultural symbol that is part of every culture from the Sikhs of India, who never shave as an act of submission to God to the secular Frenchman who shaves daily to keep up his appearance.
Can shaving be a symbolic act? Definitely, especially if you have worn a big beard for a long time. Like getting a new haircut, it can be a symbol of starting again, or in reverse for the uni students who grow their first beards in the name rebellion, freedom and sometimes laziness, to shave or not to shave is a questions that many of us have answered already, but the fact that today people are much more tolerant of foreign cultures, foreign people and foreign beards, is a sign that both the beard and the razor will both still be around for many years to come.
Original article by Adrian Green appears on The Good Men Project.