In honor of the inspiring solidarity of Conan and Letterman and the rest of the Late Night TV hosts showing support for their striking writers by growing burly “strike beards” (not to mention my own facial hair preferences), I’ve decided to compile this historical list of the 10 Most Inspiring Beards Of All Time. Now these aren’t necessarily the people with the BEST beards, mind you – just the beard-enthusiasts whose face fur was so overwhelmingly beautiful and awesome, it actually inspired me, and made me wish I could grow a beard just like theirs.
10. Al Borland – Back in my younger, less cognitive years, I could reasonably have been described as a fan of Tim Allen’s alpha-male family sitcom Home Improvement. I am not proud of this. But in retrospect, I think what I enjoyed most about the program was not Tim’s neanderthal noise-making, JTT’s disarming adorableness, or even young Pam Anderson’s rack – it was the loyal sidekick in flannel, the magnificently bearded Master of Tools, Al Borland. And like Samson’s hair or Britney’s Red Bull, I believe Al’s true source of power, which helped him withstand the constant harassment of his moronic host pal, was his fuzzy beard. Like a lovable teddybear with a belt sander, Al always handled Tim’s latest life-threatening misadventures with the kind of pragmatic wisdom only a man with that beard could possess. Behind that beard hid a single man who still lived with his mother, but also a man who taught us that gentleness is next to manliness (and to choose our friends more carefully).
9. Bob Ross – This Van Gogh of happy trees on TV was like a human Chia pet made completely out of zen, and at the very center of this centered being, was the trademark Jew-fro and corresponding salt and peppered face fur. But like one of his beautiful landscape paintings, in which the color and texture and light and shadow work together to create something of greater and more profound beauty, I like to think of Bob’s whole above-shoulders “head and face” hair ensemble as one big beautiful beard. Not only was this look unmistakable and inspiring, it was a true American masterpiece.
8. Blackbeard the Pirate – Since they didn’t have digital cameras or Google Image Search back in the olden days of pirates, we don’t really have any idea what this guy looks like, but come on, how many other people in human history do we know who’ve been remembered first and foremost by a description of their beard? The picture above, while illustrated, is the closest thing we have to a picture of Blackbeard, and just look at that thing. It’s scary black snake-like dreadlocks clearly inspired that octopus-face guy from Pirates of the Caribbean, not to mention the fact that there’s f*cking SMOKE coming out from the side of his beard. Blackbeard’s beard was so badass it apparently needed coal to fuel it. Very inspiring, though considering our current global climate, my own beard is a hybrid.
7. ZZ Top – These guys have always been a mystery to me, because despite having pretty good songs, for some reason they decided, “F*ck it, we’re gonna be the dudes with the beards.” Now that being said, one cannot have a legitimate discussion of facial hair without acknowledging their achievements in the form. I mean, they’re like the International Beard Mascots, and whatever they may lack in style is more than made up for in both size and sheer commitment to the overarching idea of the beard. Except they should kick that other hair-lacking nancy boy out of the band.
6. Kenny Rogers – When I see older pictures of Kenny Rogers and his beard, I want to gaze far into the West, and sing “The Gambler” through a mouthful of roasted chicken until I get tired, then buy a new face.
Find out #’s 5 – 1, after the jump!
5. Kelly Preston – I mean come on, she’s been married to John Travolta for nigh on 17 years. Just ask Katie Holmes whether or not that’s inspiring?
4. Princess Vespa’s Stunt Double – As a seven-year old child awakening to the most miniscule concept of the existence of sexuality, I was smitten with the spoiled-but-beautiful Jewish space princess Vespa in Mel Brooks’ classic Spaceballs. But when I encountered that pivotal scene halfway through the movie in which we’re introduced to the princess’ bearded stunt double, my fledgling feelings of sexual discovery were suddenly thrown into an abyss of shame and confusion, as my young mind tried to make sense of the contradiction of facial hair upon a beautiful woman. I’m only now coming to terms with this watershed moment from my childhood, but it eventually did inspire me towards the realization that beards can be beautiful on ladies, too. That’s why I now watch The View as a heterosexual male. (Sadly no bearded Vespa pic was available)
3. Teen Wolf – While this beloved 80’s teen film was on obvious metaphor for the struggles of high-school and puberty (and an apparent excuse to create characters with names like “Styles” and “Boof”), none of its points resonated quite so poignantly as the crystal clear message it sent saying, once and for all, that it’s possible for a teenage boy to be both bearded AND popular. Also, it’s okay for a teenage boy to be a werewolf (so long as that werewolf is good at basketball).
2. Steven Keaton from Family Ties (Michael Gross) – When you’ve got a smartass 80’s Republican-gone-wild for a teenage son, you’re gonna need all the “sternness” help you can get, which is why it comes as no surprise to me that the head of the Keaton clan chose to sport a beard that just screamed, “Sensible father!” A beard that managed to be both warm and strong, that could command respect or convey tenderness depending on whatever parental facial expression a given situation called for, it became fashionable among many 80’s dads searching for a more rugged grooming option than Alan Thicke and that sissy-ass Mike Seaver bullsh*t. If I ever have kids, and they get a little mouthy when they start growing up, I guarantee I’ll be wearing a beard to show them who’s the boss, too.
1. Cat Stevens – If you want to sing out, sing out. And if you want to grow an awesome beard, grow an awesome beard. On top of penning some of the finest feel-good music of the first half of the 70’s, and being an outspoken proponent of peace, Cat was the consummate supporter of the beard, which he championed throughout his brief career in pop music, and was the one aspect of his person that remained when he became Muslim and transformed himself into Yusuf Islam. While he may no longer be making songs that sound fun when you’re high, or taking pictures like the one above (in which you’re practically hypnotized by the infinite secrets and mysteries that beard possesses), Cat/Yusuf is still an undeterred believer in the beard, a conviction which nearly got him sent to Guantanamo Bay after trying to get on an airplane after 9/11. That’s what you call having courage in your convictions, and your facial hair.
And there you have it. Though seeing as how what scratches my beard fancy might not be the same as what tickles yours, leave the beards you’ve been inspired by in the comments, along with an explanation why…