Thursday, February 7, 2013

Product Review: The Winter Beard

With winter in full swing here in New England, increasing numbers of gentlemen cyclists sport a popular cold weather accessory: the winter beard. Even for those normally clean shaven, this effective and budget-friendly solution can be hard to resist once the frost sets in.

Having surveyed a number of male cyclists, the most popular means of obtaining a winter beard seems to be the DIY method: Simply stop shaving your face, and in as little as a week you could find yourself in possession of a modest to moderate wooly facial appendage. In weather that's merely cool, that might very well suffice. In harsh winter climates, continue growing to taste, or until coworkers/ loved ones begin to complain. To shorten or shape, use a beard trimmer.

Maintaining your winter beard is simple: Handwash with soap and water, and check for trapped food particles after meals. If you notice people staring at the lower half of your face in disgust, you may not be performing these maintenance tasks diligently enough. Otherwise, you are probably fine.

The winter beard has many benefits. It is temperature-regulating, wind-proof, breathable and quick drying - more so than any wool or synthetic balaclava on the market. It is natural, organic, and ethically grown. It is inexpensive. You are unlikely to lose it or leave home without it. And it colour coordinates with any outfit.

Possible drawbacks include extra maintenance, and potential protests from your significant other. In the event of the latter, I suggest pointing out the communal usefulness of your beard: For instance, it can function as a loofa-like facial exfoliant for your spouse, or a scratching post for your cat.

In growing your winter beard, pay attention not only to length, but to total area of coverage: The most effective beards are as thick nearer to the neck as they are at the chin, providing the warmth of an extra scarf.

And finally, do exercise moderation. Local cartoono-anthropologist has documented breakouts of Competitive Beard Growing disorder among cyclists in winter, which are not without side-effects. Sure your luscious facial locks might impress your friends and terrify your enemies, but if a beard is long enough to get stuck in your bicycle's components, you have gone too far.

27 comments:

  1. Aye, I've got me a beard... and a thick, wooly one it is.
    The grey-ness of it doesn't necessarily coordinate with all of my outfits, but I am (thankfully) past the age of caring.
    This morning's ride in 25 degree flurries still required a bandana to break the chill, though!

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  2. You left out that facial hair also acts as an effective drag brake to slow yourself down in icy conditions. BTW, handsome, sturdy portrait of your husband.

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  3. Ha! Not sure if this image will get updated, but check out the latest New Yorker cover:

    https://subscribe.condenet.com/images_covers/cover_newyorker_190.jpg

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  4. I think the winter beard is overrated.

    The main problem I have with riding in severe wind chill is that my cheek bones get frozen. That's why at temperatures below 5F I would wear a face mask. And unless we talk about some genetic mutation, I have never heard of a man able to grow facial hair on cheek bones.

    The rest of my face stays warm enough and doesn't need a beard.

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    1. So you have never seen a guy with hair on his cheekbones? Try Google images, I'm sure some image will enlighten you.

      Growing a beard and trimming it is more of a hassle for me than shaving it as required. I hate both.

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    2. Bostonbybike,

      I retract my previous reply. You are right. No one has much cheek bone hair. I have a bit and expected their were men with more than mine. Ernest Hemingway had the most I could find.

      Your point is taken. Cheek bones are not protected by a beard.

      Delete
  5. Hilarious! My favorite... "people staring at your face in disgust." I can't do a full beard. I keep it just to a goatee. It helps, a bit. I just don't like having hair around my mouth. At times, I've done the Lincoln.

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  6. And then there's always the design element. What better way to sport ice sculptures than on your face as condensation and freezing temps collect like frosty barnacles!

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  7. 37 years ago I came to the conclusion that dragging a knife over one's face every morning is not a civilized habit. It took 25 years to finally settle in a region where this is considered normal.

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  8. Is the guy sporting the beard your DH? By-the-by, love the bike.

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  9. " but if a beard is long enough to get stuck in your bicycle's components, you have gone too far. "

    This puts into perspective a friends anecdote from China, where he and his girlfriend traveled for a little over a year--something about the length of ones beard quantifying the amount of wisdom the owner has. ;)

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  10. With the approaching blizzard, that beard should come in quite handy.

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  11. We have a dear old mother, she likes his whiskers too
    She uses them for dusting, and cleaning out the flue

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  12. Thought you didn't review products which you have not tried yourself. There are many flaws and drawbacks to beards in winter you failed to disclose.

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  13. For me, beards are more trouble than they are worth. Your husband looks good in one, though. I used to also when it was all dark and I had more hair, as it grows in a nice pattern. Maybe when it is all white I will grow it out again.

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  14. I think I've seen my own better half without his maybe two or three times in our nine years together. He does find that it gives him somewhat less need for additional facial coverings in the winter. I have, however, seen him arrive home looking like a wampa ice creature with a beard full of icicles despite his comfortaby warm face.

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  15. It's an indispensable part of my cold-weather kit!

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  16. Song from long-ago youth regarding long beard hairs ...

    Oh, they're always in the way ...
    The cows eat them for hay (munch-munch)
    Grandma eats them in her sleep
    She thinks she's eating Shredded Wheat...
    They're always in the way ...

    Silly songs aside, beards have multiple life cycles for a man. When we're young, a full beard is a measure of masculinity and coolness, since very few are able to actually grow one in the late-teen, early-twenties ages. Then, we realize a beard makes us look old when we're still in our "youthful" thirties. As the late forties and fifties approach, the beard once again becomes somewhat stylish, this time adding an air of "distinguished gentleman" to our appearance with a slight touch of gray. After that, we become less concerned about the whole thing and just go with whatever works. Some retain the beard as the only available hair on their head. Others shave it to better balance the shiny cone on top. Still others grow it long and use it as a way to get all retro-grouchy (or as a way to remind themselves of what they had for lunch). And, of course, those who possess a pure white beard discover a way to earn additional income during the holidays, riding their cargo bike around in a red suit while delivering toys and saying "Ho-Ho-Ho".

    And that's just the story on MEN's facial hair ....

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  17. I enjoy looking at bikes. I also enjoy looking at people and would love to see some of these winter beards! Come on, let's see the this product in action.

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  18. My facial locks grow slowly enough that getting caught in the bike components is not a problem with the winter beard. Now back when I had a year-round beard I did have problems with it getting in my eyes...

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  19. I don't know about the cat using it as a scratching post, but when I had a beard there were several time I woke up at night to my cat industrially grooming my beard.

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  20. I now sport a year round beard after going Viking on a trip to Iceland. It's iced up a couple of times this year but mainly I find it gets full of condensation after a ride. During winter it gets trimmed less frequently and my wife uses it to buff her nails, although sometimes I suspect she uses it as a stand-in nail brush as well...

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  21. I've been sporting a beard for the past couple of winters now. Aside from the little bit of extra warmth it provides outdoors, the saving of ten minutes in the morning that would otherwise be spent shaving is priceless!

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  22. Believe it or not, I actually wore a beard for a number of years. Someone tried to convince me that I lost a race because of it. I guess it made me less aerodynamic or something.

    On really cold days, the moisture from the air I exhaled would condense on my beard. If you think I look scary now, you should have seen me then!

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  23. I tried this once. I liked the temperature-regulating properties of the natural fiber and the ease of care, but it was SO ITCHY! I was told over and over that I would get used to it, but I never did. I think I need to figure out how to grow someone else's beard.

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  24. Love the beard. My winter beard has become my defining feature. Wish I could show you the photo of me with an ice beard attached to my regular beard, after a particularly snowy commute. My coworkers still look at me differently. I'm actually more interested in the light he installed on the Pashley. Any more information on that?

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