It’s no secret that fashion is a fickle game: as soon as a trend becomes truly popular and is adopted by Adrian Chiles or the cast of The Apprentice, it holds little interest for the style set. About a year ago, fashion journalists started reporting that this sad cycle had claimed its latest casualty: the beard – a prognosis that now appears to have been confirmed by the University of New South Wales.
The beard trend started about five years ago, in the usual places. David Beckham and Ryan Gosling had been making short beards look good for years; models such as Patrick Petitjean – and others walking for Martin Margiela in 2011 and Paul Smith in 2012 – demonstrated that the full ZZ Top could be handsome, too. Beards were adopted by the sort of men who live in east London and dress like 18th-century carpenters. But by 2013, they were popping up in the least edgy places: on Hollywood Dads at the Oscars and in John Lewis adverts. Then Jeremy Paxman wore his on Newsnight, in August 2013, and the death knell was rung.
And yet most pogonophiles carried on wearing theirs regardless – and quite right too. Yes, the beard had become a bit of a cliché. A neat version screams ‘still got it – honest!’ a bit too loudly. A huge, out-of-control bush has started to look like a bit of an effort to live with, which is the opposite of the anti-establishment Hobo vibe the wearer presumably hopes to convey. But beards are popular for a reason. They are more flattering than any make-up: they draw attention to the eyes and lips, create cheekbones and hide double chins. If you are bald, they give balance. And what are the alternatives for those who love facial hair? Moustaches come with worrying connotations; Guy Fawkes goatees are downright sinister. David Beckham tried that, in 2012, and even he couldn’t spark a trend.
But fashion can be cruel – we may as well accept that beards, though flattering, are starting to feel a bit naff, like boot-cut jeans and blush-coloured court shoes before them. The best thing to do? Have a shave. Move on. Relegate beards to the style wilderness – quickly. The sooner they are banished, the sooner some brave fashion type will re-embrace the trend in the name of irony – and the more quickly we can have them back.