As a fashion accessory, the beard occupies the sweet spot where sloth meets affectation – that’s why I’ve got one – although you couldn’t really call facial hair fashionable any more. We hit “peak beard” – when the beard’s ubiquity began to nullify its impact – around the time when Jeremy Paxman grew his. Miliband has come very late to the party. I was actually thinking of getting rid of my beard on holiday this year, but after three years I’m afraid of what’s under there.
At this stage Miliband’s whiskers are little more than glorified stubble – for all I know, he looks like that every day before he shaves a second time at 5PM – but it suits him. People are describing the new look as sexy on Twitter, but the effect is probably due to the absence of stiffness, the lack of presentation. He looks relaxed, and is therefore virtually unrecognisable.
Ironically, the very office job for which Miliband felt obliged to shave every day is about to be filled by a man who has had a beard since the 1970s. Some people are choosing to regard Miliband’s new beard as an indication of tacit support for Jeremy Corbyn, or even a slavish attempt to commandeer some of his old Labour authenticity, but Miliband is beyond caring what people think – and that is precisely where his beard is coming from.