By: Dwayne Parton

Why A Beard?

The beard seems to be the latest form of cool these days. I’ve been growing mine for some time but it’s not just because it’s the latest fad. I could care less about the number of duck hunters with beards and I haven’t even seen a single episode of duck dynasty or what ever that other show is. Update: I’m embarrassed to say that I now have seen a few duck dynasty episodes thanks to my roommate. I don’t care that people think they are “manly”. As a matter of fact “manly” is not a word I would use to describe me, that’s how I’d describe my dad or my brothers. I’m more awkward, skinny, goofy, cheesy….I’m just Dwayne, nothing more. I’ve had a beard for a while but have always kept it cut at 1/4 inch it’s just way easier to trim than to shave with straight razor kits. Shaving means razor burn on my face. Anyhow, I started letting it grow this past year but for a few purposes.

Beards are inherently intimidating. This intimidation shows itself in a few ways. If dressed appropriately and with a little unkempt hair people will assume you are homeless or at the very least a member of the “jobless and don’t care” club. Maybe that’s not the way you want to be described. The homeless are so often avoided and the jobless who don’t care are almost outcasts. Many people refuse to go near them and though they may not describe them as intimidating, a large number of people are in some way scared of them.

I’m revisiting this post, which I stated in March 2014 and never finished, and I thought it was worth posting along with a few other thoughts. Ultimately, I started growing out my 1/4 inch beard to look like I knew what I was doing while I hiked the Appalachian Trail. I mean, clean-cut has green written all over it and I was pretty green and didn’t want to look it. When I started the 2,185 mile walk I had only hiked about 30 miles the month prior to departure. The beard worked. People assumed that I knew how to hike and often asked me tech or general hiking questions. The bad thing was I never really knew the answers. I followed the white marks that lined the trail and that was it. I never made a fire and I made all the rookie mistakes that I cared to make.

The beard is the greatest mask ever made. Just to finish this thought, which I had previously wrote, I think for me having a long beard was a way of hiding who I was. Not that it really does that. But it was a kind of physical way to start over.

I had originally thought I would grow my beard the entire time I was on the trail. I wanted to be a true AT hiker. But after making it Woods Hole Hostel in VA, I couldn’t take the excessive tickling of my beard and my sheep like afro had to go. I was miserable and so I trimmed it. Which would have made me look like a day hiker but I was so gaunt I looked like I had been hiking a while. Shaving made me realize I needed to eat more.

Now I’m back to 1/4 inch and I think it’s perfectly fine.