An Ode to Shaggy Men
Was your first crush on Luke Perry from Beverly Hills, 90210—just for his elegant sideburns? Do you love Tom Jones for his extravagant chest hair alone, or bemoan the day that Brad Pitt or Jake Gyllenhaal reverted from stubbly chins to clean-shaven faces? Finally, there comes a book that understands your aesthetic.
Hairy Hunks: A Celebration of Shaggy Stallions released by Abrams this month, honors the hirsute male in all his many splendors, from moustaches to body hair to beards. Writer Lucy Porter isn’t afraid to be a teeny bit highbrow with her shaggy heartthrobs either, quoting, “He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man.” ( Much Ado About Nothing).
Porter came of age during the Miami Vice-led stubble fad of the ‘80s, and an affection for the furry man never really faded for the British standup comedian. Porter says she has held strong to the preference for its unexpected rewards. “I enjoy dating beardy blokes because you get to kiss and exfoliate at the same time,” she quips to The Daily Beast. She goes on to tell a story about how she saw a man on a poster who she found incredibly attractive—and it turned out to be an ad for the biography of Young Stalin. “Essentially what I discovered is that Stalin is my type,” she laughs. “I have also been tempted by Osama bin Laden and Charles Manson. Apparently I have a thing for evil mass murderers as long as they're hairy.”
Porter points out that beards have a checkered history. Victorians used them to indicate high status, but by the late 20th century, they were a badge of the counterculture. And then there are all the dictators and homicidal maniacs who proudly sport facial hair. Porter finds that loving a hirsute man is also about accepting the mixed messages his hairiness might imply. “A wonderful thing about hairy men,” she says, “is that they confound your expectations.” “As Wolverine, Hugh Jackman obviously appeals to the kind of woman or man who likes a guy with generous sideburns—and retractable claws,” Porter jokes.
Of course, the book covers the hair metal era, though Porter admits that the giant ‘80s manes were never her favorites. “The Crüe have been through artistic difficulties, addictions, and woman trouble, but the one habit they couldn't kick was hairspray,” Porter says. “If I'm honest, I think they look slightly terrifying, but Pam Anderson and Heather Locklear can't be wrong, can they?”
Musicians have always held a special place in the shaggy pantheon, but Porter notes in the book that she prefers them a bit more grunge than glam. “I guess my major adolescent crush was on Kurt Cobain,” she says. “I used to be something of an indie kid, and the guys I liked wore beanie hats over greasy hair, and let their facial hair grow unchecked. This is probably why I now prefer men who look a bit homeless.” Dave Grohl, another former member of Nirvana, has become Porter’s shaggy icon. “He has probably single-handedly done more to make the beard cool than anyone else.”
She loves that modern-day indie bands like Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses, and The Magic Numbers have adopted a longhaired, bearded look reminiscent of 1960s California. “It's a good time to be a beard lover right now.”
Though Porter notes that she was a bit too young to appreciate Tom Selleck when Magnum P.I. originally aired, she admits that there is no one who worked a ‘stache like its eternal poster boy. “It's only in recent years that I've fully come to appreciate the moustache—I've always been more comfortable when it has a full beard to go with it. Also, I am still gutted that Tom Selleck is a spokesperson for the NRA—I like my men hairy but unarmed.”
As for current crushes, she likes a clean-shaven George Clooney, but with a giant beard (and a potbelly to match) in Syriana. “He makes me swoon,” she says.
Porter also upholds Nicolas Cage for his fearless facial-hair philosophy. “I think he represents the mild eccentricity that a lot of us associate with piliferous men,” Porter says. “This picture also raises the question: monobrow, the last frontier for the lover of hairy hunks? I don't mind a hairy back but I do still struggle a little with the monobrow if I'm being honest.”
Marisa Meltzer is coauthor of How Sassy Changed My Life. Her next book Girl Power will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in February.