Heed my story. A story of a once vibrant past, a bleak present, and a hope for the future.

Once I was a fresh, baby-faced young lad, with nary a care in the world. I had a nice apartment that I shared with my beautiful girlfriend, I had a great job, and I was going to be happy for the rest of my life. It was a good time for just about everyone in the whole country, as a matter of fact, and for people all over the world. Our cares seemed so far away. Looking back now it’s easy to see it as the calm before the storm. This was ten years ago. This was before the Beards came.

It started to happen here and there, to people you knew. Suddenly your cousin showed up to Easter dinner with a Beard, or one of your co-workers came back from a long weekend with one. Then, soon, they were popping up on the face of nearly every man you’d see. The Beards’ takeover was as meticulously planned and expertly cultivated as the thickets upon the chins of the growing multitudes were not.

I was one of those early casualties. My story, at least its beginning, is like most others’. Leaving a friend’s place one Friday evening after some pleasant after-work drinks, I was approached from a dimly lit alleyway by a mysterious yet authoritative figure. A description of him would have been next to impossible, except to say he seemed to consist only of a long coat, a wide-brimmed hat, and a mane of tangled hair sprouting from between them.

That description proved to be more accurate than I could have possibly imagined, for once he had drawn me into the alley, the coat and hat dropped to the ground, and all that remained was a detached, floating Beard. I tried to scream, but it was already upon my face.

Over the next few months, my life as I knew it began to dissolve. People at my workplace treated me differently, and I was made aware of a strict no facial hair policy that until then I hadn’t known existed. Maybe it didn’t exist until then. The nascent dread of these horrible beings was causing the first hints of what would become a wider-spread panic.

After I lost my job and began walking the streets in search of a new one, I was often mistaken for a homeless man. Which I very nearly became, after the pressure put on my home life reached fever pitch. When my long-time girlfriend left me after I started wearing vests all the time and constantly listened to banjo music.

But, for me to be writing this now, I’ve obviously gotten out from under the Beards’ control. The Beard remained, but control was reversed. I don’t know how or why it happened; if it was through sheer force of will, or that the soul of the Beard inhabiting me withered from lack of attention after I consistently refused to join one of the many facial hair clubs that were now springing up in pubs on every street corner, but suddenly I found myself free.

And what I discovered horrified me. In just a short couple years, the Beards had completely taken over. Lines of bearded men marched the streets and took over parties. The number of outdoor music festivals had exploded exponentially. Wool knit cap and conditioning wax had become the cornerstones of the economy. Craft beer breweries had replaced churches and temples as the premier place of worship. I had awoken in a hairy dystopia.

I was chosen, for whatever reason, to be bearded salvation. To walk the streets among the Beards, unnoticed. To take action against them and all that they’ve come to stand for. A brush-faced vigilante, my beard the feared symbol of the fight against unchecked corruption in the same manner as Gotham’s Bat Signal or McDonaldland’s Grimace Beacon.

So, if you’re reading this and you’d like to join the revolution, look to my Beard. The Beard of the underground, the Beard of the people. Know that together we can lead ourselves out of this dark time, right our path, and send the Beards back to where they belong; the lazy, the unemployed, and the lazy unemployed struggling artist.

Do your part, punch the next guy you see. Punch him right in the Beard.


Photo by Johnny Scott

Like most men of art in this au courant city, I feel an overwhelming urge to let my facial hair grow out as winter settles in. It’s a rather invigorating show of machismo, a throwback to the golden age of manhood, and a new dandy object to dote on—a velvety pet to stroke into regal submission. It keeps my face warm and it ensures brawn and I’m still keeping it brushed by New Year’s (I suggest a bore head brush, for best results).

But then, of course, the whole ordeal comes with a stack of pitiful worries as well. For one, soup will indeed be strained, as will my patience with every soup, coffee and over-easy egg sandwich gooping my mustachios in its ooze. Napkins are suddenly unrecognizable by the end of meals, and I’m catching myself licking hair, on my face, all the time.

What’s more, while some dames will go weak at the knees and pouty at the lips at the sight of a fine bristly face-scape (and some at the site of a not-so-fine one, too), quite a few more will wonder if a bearded man even has cheek bones and a jaw under there—or worse, they’ll assume he most obviously doesn’t. I do not like being thoughtlessly discarded, or ignored.

These (rather ridiculous) concerns—coupled with (even more ridiculous) the fact that I look like more and more of a shoo-in, with every quarter inch of dark growth, for some Homeland extra work—have me, almost every time, reaching vainly for the trimmer after a few months.

And so, this brave new year, newly single, dates scheduled, I most recently did just that. The beard will have me think myself into the dumbest of corners if I let it, and I’m most willing to buzz my way out of it if I do. I combed the cordless Philips through the shag and my face, chiseled real-life bones and all, emerged from under every stroke. And though I was a little sad about giving up (sadder about my reasons), and none too thrilled about the cold I’d be inflicting upon my cheeks, I was happy to retrieve the resplendence of that old visage of mine.

Then, I came to the moustache.

The moustache is a funny thing. As I trimmed away my best-to-date, sveltest Nation-of-Islam look, I narrowed in on the stache, and started to look more and more like a younger, fitter, fewer chinned, more dapper Juan Valdez, a Colombian bean wrangler for the new world. I looked like there are things I know—sensitive, mysterious, darkly things.

And so, as last year it was the Prince moustache, this year, wax out on a Thursday morning in January, I twisted at the very tips of my luxuriant manifest destiny. It twirled up and stayed, just so, on each side, and suddenly I looked like a million sleazy bucks, and felt like it.

In that moment, I wasn’t Tom Selleck, or even Roger Murtaugh; I was Dali, Bill the freakin’ Butcher—I was the goddamn Soup Nazi. By the time I left the house, I was a regular old first-grade hipster douche in my R.M. Williams Chelsea boots and selvedge jeans and 32 oz. dark navy pea coat, stache readied for any obscure reference, but I didn’t even give a care, because I felt and looked like greatness, and that fateful Thursday was the first day of the rest of my mustachioed life.

Everyone—on the bus, on the street, hustle to hustle—seemed to notice. A moustache that’s required some time and energy does not a frivolous gentleman make. I met smiles, I met wide eyes, I met nervous starers, and even the guy at Café Resonance was noticing.

For instance, I know that when he said “I really dig your half-sleeve, too” he was, beyond his control, referring by omission to my whiskers, who loomed boldly without needing a mention, friscalating face wings soaring right into the westerly sun-drenched glory of that afternoon. And it felt lovely on my face, that sun: bones rekindled in the luminous vitamin, upper lip refracting, a solar panel to the smithy of my soul. It was a mixed metaphor kind of ecstasy, and no one could take it away from me.

In that moment, I would be a man with a moustache forever—outside of race, beyond time, everlastingly beeswax-ed. It lasted straight through Saturday. And it was good.

My last stop of Canadian Music Week brought along a pleasant surprise as I was introduced for the first time to Sean Rowe.

While my financial situation dictates that I have to rely on the generosity of friends or cheap hostels when I come to Toronto, I still always try to stop by the Gladstone Hotel for their music venue. After a couple of days of high intensity rock and punk bands, I was looking forward to capping off my 2013 Canadian Music Week with a low key acoustic folk show.

Sean Rowe

I had originally intended to stop by the Gladstone to profile another artist on the bill, but my favourite performer of the night was upstate New-Yorker Sean Rowe. With his electrifying baritone voice and powerful lyrics, Rowe is a mix of Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits with a dirty down south kind of sound.

As I watched the show I remember thinking screw those young, moody emo bands that littered Queen street on Saturday night! It’s a nice to see a performer who is clearly loving life. After declaring that he had a nightmare where he had to shave off his beard (see my Ben Caplan article for my thoughts on bearded men), one of the sweetest moments of my CMW experience this year was Sean Rowe gushing about his young son and then dedicating a song to him. It sent me off to sleep with a smile on my face. If only all our Saturday nights could end this happily.