Saturday, July 03, 2010

Five O'clock Shadow

In the series Incorruptible, Max Damage has to quickly shave right after he wakes up or his body will become so tough that any razor will break on his stubble. This hardening increases the longer he’s awake, making him invulnerable. He can stay up for days until sleep deprivation starts hampering with his mental faculties, forcing him to rest. Consequently, Max is usually perpetually unshaven. If you look, there are a lot of Max Damages walking around nowadays.

When did it happen? When did going unshaven not just for one day, but several days become so fashionable?

I suppose my earliest recollection of the unshaven being in vogue would be back in 1981 when Harrison Ford first starred as Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Of course he was generally only “scruffy-looking” when he was out in the field, but was clean-shaven back at the college. (Interestingly, Han Solo was ALWAYS clean shaven, despite Princess Leia’s comments on his appearance.) I’m going to put Indy in the “I’m too busy trying to stay alive” to shave category.

Then in 1984 we had Don Johnson’s portrayal of Sonny Crockett in Miami Vice. I seem to remember that Sonny had alcohol issues. Anyway, he wasn’t afraid to go unshaven to work, but he probably got flak for it. He did go undercover a lot, so I guess he needed to look more “seedy” (Although, Tubbs usually found time to shave.). Still, I’m going to put Sonny in the “I’m too lazy or hung-over” to shave category.

So, we had precursors 25 to 30 years ago, but that doesn’t explain the rampant unshaven-ness going on these days.

Now, when I was a kid, I always wanted to be more grownup, which is a typical childish fancy. And I do mean childish, since the child hardly can comprehend what they’re wanting really entails. For example, I used to want to have “B.O.”. Likewise when it came to facial hair, I wanted to have the swarthiness of Sean Connery’s James Bond – the shadow, not the hassle. Back in high school, I’d be lucky if I could get a few strands of hair to grow. Things started getting a little more visible during college, especially during exam week, which was a typical time to forego the blade -- The “I’m too busy studying” to shave category. Needless to say I regret both of those wishes as I’d rather not have body odor (although deodorant is easy enough to use and effective) and I certainly wish I didn’t have to shave as often as I do. (Do you realize how hard it is to apply sunscreen to stubble?)

I had a conversation last week with a couple of guys and the topic turned to shaving and it seemed pretty universal that shaving was a royal pain for us all. (I once had a friend who was originally from India and he had to shave TWICE a day to maintain a “clean-cut” appearance.) None of us used an electric razor, as they are woefully inadequate for dealing with the neck hair. What’s the point of using something “quick” when a wet razor is still required to finish the job? One individual was in a position where someone might complain if he didn’t shave for work. It didn’t make much difference for the other one, but he did notice that he received more compliments when he shaved.

I think the trend of smaller beards, van dykes or goatees, really stems from the desire to shave less. You still need to maintain them, but one will likely not notice if you miss a day or so if you’ve got something already growing. I’ve known people who grow beards seasonally (usually they’re hunters). Sometimes I imagine using the “I’m growing a beard “ excuse. Of course, I might not be growing a beard the next day, but then I could start growing another one the day after that. Who could prove you wrong?

Since I usually get up so early for work, most people would assume I hadn’t shaved by the time they saw me anyway, especially if I’m using a dull razor. (I remember a Simpsons episode where Homer shaves and his “shadow” disappears and then immediately reappears – that’s what it’s like to use a dull razor.) Consequently, I started skipping days or shaving at night (which times my five o’clock shadow at 5:00 AM) to gain me an extra few minutes of sleep. However, I usually can’t go for more than a couple of days before I have to scrape it off. In fact I see quite a number of workers who skip a day too (probably another reason why I felt comfortable doing it).

Not only is it more prevalent and socially acceptable in the work place (except for maybe interviews), but it seems to be fashionable. I was looking at the “vision” magazines, while at the eye doctor a few weeks ago. Many of them were really just another type of fashion magazine, especially since most of the frame advertisements were from Europe. The majority of male models were sporting LOTS of facial stubble. Given today’s fashions, I’m curious if Jim’s future son-in-laws will be clean-shaven on their wedding days?

I have another theory for why men go unshaven for days at a time – the cost. Razors are VERY expensive. So expensive that most stores have to lock them up as their unit cost per pound is nearly 400 dollars. When did they become so pricey? I honestly don’t remember, but in the last decade I think. Luckily, I can make a dull razor last several months!

Now I really don’t mind shaving as long as it’s on my own terms and timetable. For one thing my beloved wife LOVES it when I’m clean-shaven. And I have to admit I like it too – it’s just the monotony of it all and the time it consumes that irritates me. At forty I now have plenty of visible stubble and some of them are even gray. (Gray hair was something else I used to look forward to: I bet I’ll regret that too, when I get some.) Just all part of growing older. However, I know a great way to feel youthful again: shave before a nap. When you wake up, your face is still baby smooth! Makes me feel like a 20-year old again (momentarily).

Max isn’t the only “stubble-bum” in comics these days. If you check the latest logo for the Fantastic Four (the one that shows the four members in circles around the text, like they had in the late 70’s), you’ll see that Reed Richards is also unshaven. Now, Kirby often showed Reed unshaven if he was really working hard on something, but the current super muscular Reed is ALWAYS perpetually unshaven (Give him an eye-patch and he could pass for a Nick Fury life model decoy). Reed falls in the “My work is too important or I’m too busy” to shave category. You would think that a super genius could develop a better way for mankind to shave itself!!!

If you normally shave, but didn't today; what not shaving excuse category do you fall in? And not to leave the ladies out this could apply to their legs or their armpits as well (Although, that practice differs depending on the country or culture). My mother used to have a really cool shaver called a Flicker, which made a great space ship to play with once the razors were removed. She also used a straight razor! Compare that to our ultra comfort four-blade safety razors, we use today. Women are certainly tougher than men at times.

No comments:

Post a Comment