The Real Biker Beard Story
They say diamonds are a girl's best friend, well beards are a woman's. Joelle Fraser, a contributing author to Long Ride Shields, has gone through the blood, sweat, and beards to tell the truth about this biker hair. -LRS
This blog is about beards. Odds are if you’re in the biker world, you’ve got a beard, and 9 out of 10 riders you see have one—from the tidy triangle to the Father Time face cape.
Have you ever wondered what the ladies think about them?
After some (unscientific) polling, I’ve found that women have all kinds of opinions. One gal said with a wrinkled nose, “It’s a turn off. It’s like gray, scratchy cobwebs on the face.” Another said they remind her of “homeless people. I told my husband ‘No way.’” Yet another commented with a shrug, “I’m used to it.” And more than a few told me they loved their man’s mane.
The consensus? Groomed is better. Of course, “groomed” means different things to different people—from sculpting the beard into a work of art to wiping away the globs of egg yolk.
For me, I’ve always preferred being able to see the outline of a man’s face, which disappears around inch 3 to 4. What chin? What jaw?
This topic has also been on my mind because it’s in my face. Literally. My boyfriend has a Biker Beard—a big one. One bandana is not enough to contain it on a ride; he has to shove a hunk of it into his shirt.
Before I go on, he approved this blog. (In fact, when my future biker book becomes a movie, he wants to play himself. He’s pretty cool that way.)
When we met five years ago he had a razor-edged goatee and his hair was about 1/4” long. Being a fan of the more scruffy look, I encouraged him to let his hair down. Careful what you ask for, Ladies!
Lately, with his long hair and beard, he’s Wolfman Jack; he’s a young, modern day Gandalf from Lord of the Rings. I could go on, but you get the point.
I’ve observed his gradual transformation with the nervous attention of one watching a neighbor’s once manicured garden slowly grow out of control, the grass knee high, the dandelions waving in the sun. Like that wild garden, there’s a certain beauty to the lush look of a man who’s thrown out the scissors and razors.
But still, I’ve had to adjust—what’s visible of his handsome face has shrunk to the size of a snorkel mask: forehead, eyes, nose, two small crescents of upper cheek. His lips are like buried treasure. Lying on his shoulder is a challenge. Sometimes it’s me vs. the beard—and the beard always wins.
But he loves it; he’s proud of it. And this is despite the extra work he has now. For example, eating BBQ is a bitch, and now there’s an array of hair products and constant grooming issues.
So I decided to do some research, because there was something more to this phenomenon, something emblematic of the biker world—that I needed to learn. I suspected it wasn’t only about vanity, or fashion.
The beard is part of the motorcycle lifestyle, but why? I believe that much of it comes down to this: Having a big beard is a sign that you don’t buy into the conventional. Most men who gravitated to the bike world after WWII, Vietnam, and the recent Middle East wars came back with a sense of “You, your bike, and your beard can hit the road.” And so they do. (I want to add here that some of the most bad-ass bikers I know are clean-shaven, which is another reason stereotyping is a bad idea.)
individualism—and often, rebellion. The white collar world wasn’t and isn’t always welcoming, seeming to say,
I think what’s hard for women is that we don’t have a corollary. Because there’s no female equivalent, beards—big or small—have a masculine purity that is impossible to ignore. Tattoos are as close as I can get, although men have them, too. Yet I have endured the pain of the tattoo, and cherish what they mean to me. I have a sense of stubborn pride about them. I know in part of the world I live in, where I’m an English teacher, or at my son’s elementary school, my tattoos are seen as “other,” as strange, even trashy. The black streaks in my hair, my leather jacket, my cut-out shirts: all of this has become part of who I am in the biker world. Most people don’t understand. Nor do they understand my man’s beard when he walks in beside me to a college function. “Fine,” I think. Make your judgments, have your assumptions. This is who we are. -Joelle