Bushy Gone Bad

09.22.14 8:25 PM ET

Leo, the Beard Has to Go: When a Man’s Facial Hair Reaches Crisis Point

Is a family of raccoons living in Leonardo DiCaprio’s beard? Beards can look sexy and brooding. They can also look demented. Men should know when it’s time to prune. 

When Leonardo DiCaprio addressed the audience at the 8th Annual Clinton Global Citizen Awards on Sunday evening, he spoke of “a real and terrifying crisis.”

He was speaking about climate change. He might also have been referring to the state of his beard, which earlier that day had accompanied him—like a comedy disguise—on the People’s Climate March in New York. And while many disagree on what to do about climate change, and who should take responsibility for the catastrophe facing the Earth, our consensus about DiCaprio’s beard is clearer: Leo, get some scissors, shears, get a razor. Cut the bush back. Blow that thing sky high.

Should we call his monstrous man-muff, “Duck Dynasty chic”? What would have happened had Abe Lincoln lived to have been an eco-activist? Whatever that is, it—along with Leo’s lank hair (greased back into what looked like a small doorknob on the back of his head)—needs to be taken in firm, probably gay hands, and tempered.

It is a shame when celebrities get into an issue, particularly environmentalism, they feel the need to make themselves look as “real,” i.e., appalling, as possible. It doesn’t make DiCaprio any more plausible as an environmental campaigner to look as if he has been living squarely in the actual environment without access to running water, razors and moisturizer for months on end.

On Sunday night DiCaprio urged the audience of global leaders and philanthropists to—in the words of the Daily Mail—“put environmental issues at the forefront of the human agenda.” Admirable stuff, but also on his agenda could be just a fleeting visit to a barber. DiCaprio’s wilderness man look is even stranger when all this ugly straggliness is sitting on top of an absolutely beautiful blue evening suit.

The star is not entirely to blame for his hideous, hirsute transgression. The beard has conquered the world. They are everywhere, ubiquitous, after a brief period in the early 2000s when they were only seen, close-cropped or as abundant as buddleia, on the most despised group in the world after ISIS—hipsters. “Creative types” as we used to call them, who populated Brooklyn in New York, or Shoreditch in London—giving rise to the “Shoreditch wanker” insult. (This insult is toothless now: The wanker ended up taking over the neighborhood.)

Beard-creep has been coalescing for a decade, and now beards are the facial go-to for men of all kinds: bankers, dancers, moronic bigots, and still those hipsters who make craft beer and yearn for a simpler life, as long as mummy and daddy are paying. Beard Guy in 2014 is creative, cool, feeling, caring, horny, thinking, deep—because who has time to shave when there’s an Economist to read?

Now, the smooth-faced look like the creepy ones, the squares.

After years of cultivating beards and mustaches in “clone” and “bear” subcultures, gay men have lost their cultural grip on styled facial hair. The sexy beard is now just as particularly cherished and clipped by straights, causing its own kind of fuzzy confusion in our new era of sexual fluidity.

But behold, DiCaprio, whose volcanic growth of furze is surely proof that the vogue for beards needs to be trimmed back. If the beard can now be said to have jumped the shark, it’s DiCaprio’s you can see vaulting over the dorsal fin. That is one ugly beard, a beard too far, a beard from beyond. We need to take a razor and make a boundary in the shaving foam, people. What’s he keeping in there? A family of raccoons?

Why must gorgeous actors ruin their faces by OD’ing on beard? To appear serious, unfazed by concerns over looks? There’s gorgeous Tom Hardy: from hottie to wouldn’t-sit-next-to-him-on-a-crowded-bus. At the 2013 Emmys, Jon Hamm’s beard actually seemed to have colonized so much of his face it had sealed over his mouth. At least Jake Gyllenhaal shaved off his grotesque face scarf this year.

Only one celebrity has made a beard of many lengths work: Ben Affleck. Even at its bushiest, in the Oscar-winning seventies-set Argo, the Affleck beard remained hot and dignified. Unsurprisingly, and deservedly, it got its own Twitter account. Even with the beard gone, Affleck works exquisite “shadow.”

When I was growing up (the 1970s—when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, and TV shows had proper theme tunes), beards were the province of second-hand car salesmen and thrilling football players with dollybirds on their arm, like George Best. A beard was a sign of laziness and loucheness. It meant you had gone to the dogs. You were a villain. You were on the make, not to be trusted.

And so I grew up shaving. Shaving: the most boring, tedious thing a man must do in his little retinue of personal upkeep chores. Was there a brief window where I relished it, where it proved something about the passage of teenager-hood to manhood? Maybe. That would have been the same brief window I discovered aftershaves like Drakaar Noir, Eau Sauvage, and Jazz by Yves St Laurent (every single gay man in London was wearing this in 1988).

But shaving quickly became a hassle; the tedious measure of the day at work ahead. And so, like any sane male, I let “it grow”, five days maybe six or seven. And I have a mini-beard. This isn’t for fashion, it’s for the reason facial hair best happens on a man: laziness.

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But for DiCaprio and offenders like him it’s gone too far. Those things are no fun to tend or maintain. They are just bushes, smelly outcrops of tangled fluff that are neither sexy nor expressive. They are anti-fun to kiss, because where the hell are the guy’s lips? Faced with one of those things, I flash back to Cecil Colby in Dynasty who had a heart attack because of Alexis’ murdering hair.

And if you manage to not die after a passionate night making out with Mr. Full Beard, the next day your own face looks so red from the chafing it’s like you’ve fallen asleep next to an electric fire.

Perhaps DiCaprio doesn’t want to be known as the smooth-as-a-baby’s-bum cheeked pin-up from Titanic days. Fine. But there is a middle way from clean-cut hunkdom to looking like a militia leader who might boil a hitchhiker alive.

Let DiCaprio’s terrible photo opportunity, his very own personal environmental disaster, be a lesson. With this hideous bushy outcrop, the beard has reached its end game. Male beard addiction needs attention. It is literally growing out of control. Gentlemen, know when it’s time to prune.