Monday, June 17, 2013

The Many Faces of James Davisson: Coda

Part of a series of Lists of Cool Things.

This is probably the right response to this particular beard.

And things got weird,
I started growing
Bob Dylan's beard.
"Bob Dylan's 49th Beard," Wilco

College is an important and formative time in the life of many young Americans. Most college kids take advantage of the chance to experiment with different behaviors, activities, and identities, trying to figure out what and who they want to be as adults in the world. While some of my peers chose to indulge in drugs and parties or try out alternative lifestyles, I chose to experiment with beards instead.

College was the first point in my life when I was both able and allowed to grow a beard, given that during my high school years my Catholic school didn't allow facial hair and in the summers my personal biology really didn't either. But on turning 18 or so, I found I was able to sport a reasonably good quantity and quality of facial hair, which I took to somewhat extreme lengths (ha!) by growing a monstrously great big bushy beard.

Even longer than this, though I can't find evidence now.

Eventually, someone pointed me to a blog which chronicled one man's Quest for Every Beard Type, suggesting that I embark on a similar quest. So I did, starting what I called "The Many Faces of James Davisson," or simply "the beard project," employing the method of growing a big beard and then shaving it into different shapes. Occasionally I would decide that I liked one of these facial hair styles and sport it for weeks or months at a time; at other times, circumstance would necessitate wearing one style or another for longer than was necessarily wise. I even graduated in one, the "handlebar + chin puff" you'll see below. Here are pictures of most of them (alas, all the pictures are bathroom selfies, as this was before the era of the front-facing camera phone).


Standard Mustache ("Copstache")

Horseshoe ("Biker")

Mustache + Soul Patch ("Zappa")

Extended Handlebar ("Dali")

Handlebar + Soul Patch

Beards without Mustache

Petit Goatee

Full Goatee

Chin Curtain ("Lincoln")


Beards with Mustache

Chin Puff + Handlebar


Van Dyke


Full Beard


Soul Patch

Mutton Chops


Sideburns + Horseshoe + Soul Patch ("Winnfield")

I eventually quit the project before finishing the entirety of the beard chart from the original quest, to the disappointment of many. This was for the following reasons:
  1. People thought I was all about beards, to the exclusion of more worthy and interesting subjects. I put up all the pictures on Facebook, and people got excited. Like, more excited than I had really envisioned or expected. Folks started associating me strongly with facial hair enthusiasm, to an extent that I thought excessive. I would see friends I hadn't talked to in years, and they'd start conversations with the assumption that I wanted to talk about beards. I can't tell you how many times people sent me links to various sites announcing and picturing the winners of the World Beard and Moustache Championships over the years. I would get beard-based gifts from friends on occasion, too, which was rarely satisfying.
  2. There are lots of stupid beards. The chart is full of things that would take an inordinate amount of time to grow, with often silly results (see: most of the pictures above). After a while, it just doesn't seem all that worth it to put months into growing a beard just so I can take a picture with, say, the Sparrow
  3. Work. College is a great time to look like this: 

    Ha ha, college!
    Working a real job in the real world is not, really.
  4. Dating. I've had a hard enough time with dating over the years, not to mention the fact that I ended up trying an extensive stint at online dating.* It has historically been tough enough for me to secure a date, let alone doing so when I look like this: 
Come at me...dates? No, just stay away, probably.
Gradually people caught on that I had quit and stopped associating me so strongly with all things beard (though it has taken a really long time, and I still get comments about it every once in a while, which is fine—I still think the project was fun!) The best result of the project, aside from the series of fun pictures, has been that I now have several styles that I like and can rotate between: winter is now the only time I keep a full beard, with warmer times reserved for the goatee and the mustache+soul patch combo (or "Zappa"). We'll see whether these follow me into old age, but for now, I am happy to have tried so many and decided on a few that really fit.

*Not that I couldn't put up a profile picture with a cleaner look, but it's not exactly likely to go super great if you have a clean-shaven picture on your dating profile and you show up to the date looking like this: 

I wouldn't ask me on a second date; would you?

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