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Everyday Economy

New recession index: facial hair

The typical hallmarks of this recession are well-known: unemployment, foreclosures, bankruptcies...

Now you can add beards -- at least for some men. The rise of the "recession beard" has drawn commentary in some quarters, and now there's a contest for the best recession beard at WalletPop, the frugal-living web site. The rules are pretty simple: to enter, a man must be unemployed and bearded.

WalletPop attempts to answer the question: why beards?

The consensus opinion seems to be that unemployment offers the beard grower a greater level of freedom to experiment with his appearance. Many workplaces frown on facial hair, and those that allow it often have rules about length and cut. As unemployment releases the worker from the strictures of the office, the theory goes, he can use his newfound freedom as an opportunity to explore his chin locks.This theory explains a lot, but barely shaves the surface of the phenomenon. It completely ignores the evolutionary power of whiskers. Facial hair is a visible, outward sign of one's masculinity; by growing beards, unemployed workers suggest that, evidence to the contrary, they have not been "unmanned" by their recent job troubles.

As one who wears a beard myself -- though I'm hanging onto my job, for now -- it seems less mysterious and evolutionary to me: A lot of us simply don't like to shave. Or are trying to cover our hideous faces. Or chafe at the sameness that the working world tries to exact from us in dress and habit.

In any case, I haven't observed this phenomena myself. Do you know of anyone growing recession beards? Or otherwise taking advantage of being without work to let loose their non-workplace-friendly style?


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Shawn Vestal
Shawn Vestal joined The Spokesman-Review in 1999. He currently is a columnist for the City Desk.

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