The Scruffy Look

What is it with young American men… or maybe with young men across the world? Everywhere I look – from on the street, to some businesses, to glimpses of television shows and movies, since I’ve been traveling recently – I see young men with what amounts to a two-to-three-day scruffy shadow beard.  I don’t have anything against mustaches or beards, especially if they’re sported by men on whom they look good, but facial hair on men is like extraordinarily long hair on women, and neither looks good on most members of both genders. And I do know, because I once had a handlebar mustache that, in pictures and in retrospect, looked truly awful. Still,,, if that’s what people want, that’s their choice.  

 But the scruffy look… what’s the point?  It’s not a beard.  It’s not a mustache, and on 99% of all men it just looks dirty.  Is it to prove that you’re a he-man?  Or that you don’t have to conform to social norms, or that you’re following the trends?  Or is it because you have sensitive skin and are too cheap to buy sensitive skin aftershave balm?

 Or is it a subconscious desire to be sort-of Middle East macho, but clean-shaven enough to still be identified as western? Or are you too lazy to shave regularly, but not willing to go for a full beard?  Or could it be that a beard wouldn’t look good on you, but you want the world to know that you actually could grow one?

 Or maybe I’m all wet and just missing the fact that three-day beards are irresistible aphrodesiacs?


14 thoughts on “The Scruffy Look”

  1. Matthew Runyon says:

    Combination of those is certainly true, but in large part it’s a supply and demand issue. My significant other does not like it at all when I am clean shaven, and I can’t stand the itching of a full beard.

  2. Kathryn says:

    Different attitudes, Mr Modesitt. That’s all it is.

    Social ‘demands’ change every five minutes. One day a certain hairstyle is considered ‘in’, the next it’s ‘out’ – I mean look how popular mullets were, and look at the attitude to them now!

    But, still, some men look better with a moustache (I can’t imagine Tom Sellick without one), some better clean-shaven (e.g. Tom Hiddlesworth), some with a bit of stubble (Hugh Jackman, perhaps?).

    But there’s nothing wrong with being a bit scruffy or rough around the edges. I think ‘society’, i.e. people wot is out there, demands way too much of people. We all have to be pretty, the women hairless and the men, well, however they wanna wear their facial hair, so on and so forth.

    I don’t put in the effort to be spotless, prim and proper and all that lot because, really, what’s the point? If someone’s going to judge you based on how you look then really, are they worth dealing with? I don’t think so. I don’t live to impress people or to show off. I live for me and me alone, and if my hair doesn’t play nice? Fine. I’ll go out looking like a crazy professor. But that’s my choice.

    1. Steve says:

      I am sorry Karhryn but if you have a two to three day scruffy shadow beard you truely do have a problem whether you admit it or not.

  3. Tim says:

    The comment of Kathryn’s about being judged on personal appearance (and so that person is not worth dealing with) is simply hilarious. You have just overturned most of human psychology.

    The impressions from the first 5 seconds of any meeting is very difficult to reverse. So if you appear scruffy, then scruffy is what you are. Fine if that is what you want to portray. Been to any job interviews recently?

    However, what LEM did not state is the clothing worn by people with stubble. I will bet it is the top brands, and that also sends signals.

  4. JakeB says:

    For me it’s usually because I’m running late and shaving is less important than not being any later. Also there are no social consequences to me for not shaving since I work in an academic research group. FWIW.

  5. Christoph says:

    Ha great topic. Can’t speak for other men, but Isport that exact look for two reasons. First and foremost, I have much more rewarding interactions with women. Second, I cannot find a way to shave clean without developing ingrown hairs that are painful and unsightly.

  6. Wine Guy says:

    If I go for more than 2 days without shaving, I want to scratch my face off with a rusty butter knife… that being said, I don’t like shaving every day either after being forced to for 10 years by the USN. OTOH, my wife hates stubble. On the third (or fourth?) hand, my beard is patchy and makes me look like a chipmunk. On the fifth hand, I keep everything happy by just taking 5 minutes in the morning to shave: I look good (well, better, at least), my wife is happy, the rusty butter knife is without a job for another day, and – the best part – I have those 5 minutes ALL TO MYSELF in a house filled with daughters. Problems solved.

    ps great topic.

  7. Wine Guy says:

    Why yes, they are near-teen aged daughters. Why do you ask?

  8. Ryan Jackson says:

    It’s what Mat said in the first reply. At least partially.

    I try not to go with full shadow because I agree that it looks unprofessional. But if I shave more than twice a week I bleed like a stuck pig, which aside from being uncomfortable and painful, also makes my face look even worse than the shadow does.

    I’ve since stopped doing this, but only because my wife has expressed a strong desire for a full beard and I’ve found I can actually carry it, so I do.

    Beyond that, Fashion follows wierd twists and turns. I still could never understand sagging, honestly just reminds me of someone having a full diaper, not to mention it hurts your mobility. But it was popular for a long while.

  9. Brad says:

    1. I’m too lazy to shave every day.

    2. I hate shaving, but I don’t want a full beard at the moment.

    3. As others have mentioned, I too bleed a lot and easily get ingrown hairs, so it’s very uncomfortable for me to shave every day.

    4. It doesn’t look that bad or unprofessional, come on.

  10. Joe says:

    It’s because people care so much about appearance that Romney, who stated he does not need to provide any details as to how his mathematically incoherent visions will be achieved, nevertheless appears to have won the undecided vote in tonight’s debate.

    (And to make this comment “fair and balanced”, Obama should stop channelling Al Gore and start channelling Clinton. It’s simple to show Romney’s arguments involve magical thinking, and the public would benefit from it.)

    Understanding probability is key to managing risk rationally (not based on gut feelings), for such decisions as “should we go to war in the Middle East?”. Unfortunately arithmetic and politicians seem like oil and water the planet over. The British parliament did notably badly recently, with more than half of the members of each party unable to state the chance that 2 heads occur successively when flipping a coin twice:

  11. JakeB says:

    Wine Guy, I wish to see you arm-wrestle Kali.

  12. Wine Guy says:

    I have three women (one grown, two getting close) in the house. I already outnumbered by their 3 hot tempers and 6 arms to my 1 relatively calm temper and 2 arms.

    Jake, bring her on. Kali’s a female goddess, so I’ll probably still lose, but it’ll be a fair fight because I’ve experience in lost causes (such as arguing with women – mine in particular).

  13. lee modesitt III says:

    Some of us remember that waxed handlebar mustache with nostalgia and affection….it certainly made you distinctive to all our grade-school friends.

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