How I could look like a frum George Clooney

By Simon Round, July 4, 2008

I noticed while browsing the internet a few days ago that George Clooney has (or certainly very recently had) a beard. So did Keanu Reeves. Does this mean that beards are now in?

Ever since I started shaving, I have been toying with the idea of growing a beard. I haven’t done so for two reasons. I really enjoy shaving and would therefore feel deprived if I couldn’t wield my Bic any more. Also, beards generally look rubbish.

That has certainly been my perception and it has also been the perception of every woman I have ever gone out with. There is also the example of those who have sported facial hair. Do I really want to look like Jimmy Hill, Saddam Hussein, Captain Birdseye or Theodor Herzl?

I’m sure all of the aforementioned thought they looked pretty cool (except for Captain Birdseye, who is actually a fictional character), but the fact is they don’t look good at all. In fact, I suspect that had Herzl not been the founder of modern Zionism, he would have struggled to get a girlfriend.

It is also a well-established phenomenon that many men start to grow facial hair as they lose it up top, as if to prove that at least they can grow it somewhere — the Lenin syndrome if you like. Thus beards have become linked with male-pattern baldness — not a great association.

The self-hater in me is also aware that beards are very Jewish — the bigger and bushier the growth, the more haimishe you appear. If I grew a beard people would automatically assume I was frum in the same way that if I grew a moustache they might think I had taken out Iraqi nationality. And although in one sense I am intensely proud of my culture, my heritage and the achievements of my people, I also don’t want to look too Jewish.

Even putting aside the fashion aspect, there are practical objections. I am quite a messy eater already and if I had a beard I could imagine finding stray Brussels in my bristles months later. Also beards can be itchy and they need to be trimmed, otherwise you end up looking a bit mad — so why would anyone want one? Well, George Clooney has one and so does Keanu Reeves, so there is a precedent for men of a certain age sporting facial hair and getting away with it. This could be my best chance of being bearded and not looking ridiculous.

The best I have ever done so far is three days’ growth of “designer stubble”, which, if you are over the age of 45, you may remember as “stubble”. I have to say I am curious to see what colour it would turn out. Both my brother and father had blond and ginger bits in their beards despite having black hair. This could be my last chance to find out if there are any surprise colours in my own beard before it all goes grey.

But I don’t want to be seen bearded on the streets of North London, so perhaps the answer is to go on a beard-growing holiday in a far away country where people will not recognise me or my whiskers. Maybe I’ll buy some Gore Tex and head to the foothills of the Himalayas where (with the exception of the 20,000 Israeli backpackers who pass through every year), the local sherpas will never have seen a Jew. They may assume that I am on a journey of spiritual growth, which I admit sounds a little better than a journey of facial-hair growth. Then again, maybe I’ll just stay at home and shave. George Clooney I ain’t.

Last updated: 4:32pm, September 23 2009