The Darwin, the ducktail, the mutton chop and the gentle stubble – as much as fashion documents our past, facial hair tells a similarly prickly tale. Facial whiskers fall and drape like hemlines, with the follicle-to-face ratio being at an all-time high.
Ancient history designates beards as badges of honour, often only shaved as a sign of mourning. Alexander the Great demanded all soldiers were snipped to avoid tugging during battle, while the French and British military have a long-established protocol of using facial hair to indicate rank and era. Earlier this year Dame Vivienne Westwood dressed her A/W12 male models in prosthetic beards dripping with icicles as part of her fight against global warming, while Hermès, Trussardi, Paul Smith and Margiela all bucked the clean-shaven trend, including a particularly impressive Henrik Vibskov celebrating 10 years on the catwalk with spiraling French-forks. For S/S13, a usually clean-cut season, Zenga, Yohji Yamamoto, Jean Paul Gaultier and Loewe all embraced hot fuzz. The beard now sits comfortably between its rugged past and refined, lacquered style.
"The beard now sits comfortably between its rugged past and refined, lacquered style"
Whether you possess a Cat Stevens mane, a Thom Yorke bristle or an all-out Grizzly Adams Thor-tangle, a beard can be a profound declaration of character; a representation of one’s self. “Beards are so personal. It's the most individual accessory a man can have,” explains photographer Jonathan Pryce, who has documented this season’s facial panache with his 100 Beards 100 Days project, photographing a beard a day. Here AnOther speaks to Pryce about his pogonological journey.
What inspired ‘100 beards 100 days’ project?
I wanted a personal project that would lead me to meet some interesting new Londoners. Beards are so current at the moment so I thought it would be an interesting trend to document. I felt this summer was the last chance I had to capture the trend before it became over-saturated.
How have you noticed the beard evolve over the past year or so in terms of popularity?
One of the major reasons for starting the project is noticing the beard being used as a fashion statement. As I shoot street style, I'm particularly aware of emerging trends, and about two years ago I started to notice facial hair being used by the mainstream to convey masculinity, classic style and authenticity. As time has gone on, the beard has gone from being short and trimmed, to now a more sculpted, longer beard with traditional connotations. It truly is something to separate the men from the boys.
What is your best beard grooming tip?
It's important to consider how your beard works for your face. If you can get a thick, long beard, embrace that, but make sure you have a good barber who's able to tame it on a regular basis. Home grooming is much more difficult than you'd think. I learned so much from the Pall Mall Barbers staff when I partnered with them for the events I'm doing across London – there are 1001 things to consider when growing a beard and getting a second opinion is always recommended.
Do you have a favourite beard within the project?
There are a few but it's really hard to narrow down and look objectively as I met them all so have great memories of chatting to each of the subjects. I keep going back to Roy at Cecil Court - the light on that day was just perfect and I think the photograph really captures the moment. I also love Julien on Stoney Street. That photo sums up the project quite well as also shows the secondary subject, London, quite well.
Text by Mhairi Graham