To Shave or Not to Shave

Commentator Andrei Codrescu reflects on facial hair. When he was young, he had a mustache. Now, everything has changed and he advocates shaving.

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Commentator Andrei Codrescu would like to advocate a change in the way that men present themselves to the world. It isn't extreme, or permanent, but he thinks it would improve the state of things.

ANDREI CODRESCU: In light of my new year's resolution to write only things that have some practical and positive value, I'm advocating that men start shaving again. The current style which reflects the state of the republic, is mostly unshaven or half-shaven. Stubbly actors have given men everywhere an excuse to sport stubble, but not all men are actors. The young males who romp through the pixels on TV do not resemble you or me. They are a breed apart, bred by advertising to sell things.

Every time I see my fellows outdoors I want to scream, to the barber. That's ironic of course, because in my youth I did not shave at all. I sprouted silky beards and moustaches like a field of rich loam. My hair and my youth were a challenge to the smooth-shaven who ran the world.

When I joined the smooth, it was not because I felt less rebellious, but because I had less hair. And what hair I had had turned to barbed wire.

The new youth on TV are not rebellious at all. Not even half rebellious as their stubble might suggest. Their purpose in existing is to make money. By sporting a look that should never, ever be taken for a statement. They are a waste of hair.

But older men, who should know better, are also covered in gray stubble like fields of burned sugar cane. Who are they in their own minds? Special Forces who've just emerged from foxholes after facing a mole-like enemy? Poets who've worked so hard at their sonnet, they've stayed up weeks in their attics carving every line out of three grams of grain spunk?

What is also certain is that older folks, just like the younger, are hypnotized by the same culture. Perhaps the stubble reflects a desire to grow out of the mirror clean interiors of smooth-shaven minds. Actors are not entirely responsible for the look, though. Clearly, being half-shaving reflects the daily loitering Congress, the mumbling President, the grayness of the times.

In the black and white days of the Cold War, the choices were clear. You're either a cop or a beatnik, a banker or a prophet, a salesman or a target, a hippie or a trucker. Later, those designations reversed direction. For a while it looked liked nobody was in control. Truckers grew hair and bankers grew mustaches. Then, everything changed again. The cold warriors took back the country and let loose the pixels of confusion. We are now a wholly hypnotized, half-militarized, half-shaven country. Men, to the barber, I say.

W: Twenty Years of Writings From the City.

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