WARSAW, Poland – Jakub Marczewski grew a beard six years ago because he was too lazy to shave. Now he finds himself in the middle of a global trend.
The 21-year-old got his hair and beard trimmed at a new shop with a hip retro vibe, the Barberian Academy & Barber Shop, which opened in Warsaw last month to serve the growing number of Polish men with facial hair. A revival in the culture of barbering in this Eastern European capital is just one sign of how popular beards have become, with actors, athletes and hipsters leading the way.
Metrosexuals be gone: Europe is agog for beards.
“Worldwide, we are at the height of facial hair,” said Allan Peterkin, a Toronto psychiatrist and author of One Thousand Beards: A Cultural History of Facial Hair.
“It’s a delightful expression of masculinity, but not a super-macho expression.”
After World War II, men were mostly clean-shaven, reflecting a military ethos that came to dominate corporate life, Peterkin said. Over the next decades facial hair was adopted by outcast groups like beatniks and hippies. Since the mid-1990s, it has been slowly spreading to the point that now the mountain man beard is all the rage across North America.
The 2008 financial crisis added to the beard momentum, with some men who lost their jobs ditching the conformist look as they reinvented themselves.
“To grow a beard is to start a new life and to have more confidence in yourself. You look a little older, so people have more respect,” said Salvador Chanza, a 31-year-old master barber from Spain who trains professionals. Sporting both a handlebar moustache and a substantial beard, he said the embrace of facial hair reflected a rejection of the previous clean-shaven metrosexual ethos.
Now facial hair is hugely popular across Western Europe, especially in fashion-conscious Paris. And across the globe, it’s the month of “Movember” – when men are encouraged to grow a moustache to raise awareness and funds for men’s health issues.
Piotr Zuchowski, manager of the Warsaw shop, said barbering is reviving after vanishing during Poland’s communist era. Although democracy leader Lech Walesa sported an impressive walrus moustache, most communist-era workers were clean-shaven.
Peterkin said the popularity of facial hair has always been cyclical.
“When something once edgy becomes so commonplace, like tattoos, it loses its edge,” he said. “If every guy across generations is doing it, then there is going to be a shift back to clean shaven-ness.”