|About the Book|
Faces are said to be an index of character, the most public part of us. Christopher Oldstone-Moore proposes that the history of men is literally written on their faces, and his book makes it easy to see how historical eras can be identified by facialMoreFaces are said to be an index of character, the most public part of us. Christopher Oldstone-Moore proposes that the history of men is literally written on their faces, and his book makes it easy to see how historical eras can be identified by facial hair—think of Hadrian’s Rome, or the kings and aristocrats of the high Middle Ages, or Tudor period “spade beards,” or the Victorian period in England (and also the U.S. at the same time—Walt Whitman sneered that “washes and razors for foo-foos . . . for me, freckles and a bristling beard”). The result, here, is a consistently fascinating “male-pattern history.” We witness a long-running battle by men (and a few women) to eradicate or shape the hair on their faces. Shaving plays as prominent a role in this history as beards do since the basic language of facial hair is built on the contrasts of shaved and unshaved hair- Oldstone-Moore insists we must take the long view to understand the underlying influences working on the male face. We are treated to a most sweeping history indeed, from the beards of Mesopotamia and Egypt to contemporary metrosexuals, Brooklyn-style hipsters, athletic teams (Red Sox, for sure, but also, this year, both Kansas City and San Francisco). Beard movements (instituted to combat what some men saw as a world of “woman-faced men”) alternate with shaven faces, notably the period ushered in by Alexander the Great or the medieval Church ideal of clean-shaven clergy. Is it a sign of loss of control over the self to be bearded (cf. Enlightenment views), or, contrarily, is a huge beard a signal of authority, health, an ultimate symbol of masculinity (cf. Victorian presumptions). Nowadays, the fear of beards is receding, facial hair is taken to be a token of entrepreneurial daring, and beards are becoming acceptable in the boardroom. Want more signs? New York trendoids are paying $8000 and up for facial hair transplants (to fill out their patchy beards). Beards are back in business.