Blame George Clooney, Brad Pitt, David Beckham and the rest of the facial hair-loving celebs. Blame hipster girls fawning over bearded musicians. Blame the modern caveman movement with its paleo diet and DIY ethos.
Whatever you blame, there’s no doubt that scruffy faces — and full-on beards — have been making a comeback. So much so that North American razor sales are way down, and an increasing number of British men are getting — wait for it — facial hair transplants.
Procter & Gamble, which owns shaving giant Gillette, recently announced that its razor sales are falling in developed markets. Energizer’s Schick razor has also taken a recent hit, with sales dropping 10 percent in the last year. Market research firm Euromonitor International predicts that in 2013, shaving products are expected to lose their dominance in the larger male grooming market for the first time ever.
“The vogue for stubble, the relative non-hairiness of Chinese men, growing acceptance of the unshaven look in the workplace and, most importantly, the ever increasing cost of shaving have all been damaging to men’s shaving and Gillette alike,” Nicole Tyrimou, an analyst at Euromonitor International, wrote recently. “Over the medium to long term, the desire for an unshaven look is expected to continue, especially in Western Europe where increasing unemployment coupled with stubble being in vogue will continue to damage growth of razors and blades.”
The Wall Street Journal reports another possible reason for the decline in shaving sales: the rise of razor subscription sites like the Dollar Shave Club, which send off-brand razor blades to people’s homes on a monthly basis. The straight razor is also making a comeback, as it’s a better value and more efficient, although requires greater care when shaving.
For some men, growing a beard is not just about chucking their razor — it’s a full-on cosmetic surgery procedure. A growing number of vanity-conscious lads, at least in the U.K., are opting for beard transplants, a trend that has skyrocketed over the past year, The Daily Mail reports.
(PHOTOS: The Mane Subject: A Book of Beards)
Dr. Bessam Farjo, founder of the Farjo Hair Institute who performed the world’s first facial hair transplant in 1996, said he’s seen a six-fold increase every year for the past five years in the number of men getting surgery to boost their facial follicles. Over 4,500 procedures were carried out last year, 13 percent more than in 2011. His transplant procedures are the most popular form of cosmetic surgery for men in the U.K., which he credits to scruffy celebrities like as Pitt, Beckham and BBC presenter Jeremy Paxman.
“A full beard is very much a statement look, and it goes in and out of fashion,” Farjo told The Daily Mail.
“The majority of men are looking to create a designer stubble look which seems incredibly popular nowadays,” Farjo added.
One stateside gentleman who clearly doesn’t need a beard transplant is “magnificently hirsute” L.A. Dodgers pitcher Brian Wilson, who was offered $1 million by 800razors.com to shave his “manhood,” but denied the request. TMZ reported that Wilson’s reps didn’t even consider the deal, responding that his trademark beard is “going with him to the grave.”
So is facial hair here to stay? If you look at the broader arc of history, it’s been the dominant look for centuries. Ancient Greeks considered beards a sign of virility, and Europeans in the late 19th century took them to be a sign of middle-class respect. It was only with the Beat generation that facial growth became a sign of counterculture.
So perhaps the clean-shaven look was just a blip on our radar.