How the War on Terror Made Beards Popular Again

"We are a nation drunk on 'tacticool' culture"

Bearded heroes
Bradley Cooper's "American Sniper" portrayal helped usher beards back in. (Warner Bros. Pictures)
By Ariel Scotti / June 4, 2019 11:10 am

American pop culture from old John Ford westerns, movies about the world wars all the way to September 11 dramas featured many a beardless man as its heroes while “facial hair was generally reserved for wild enemies foreign and domestic,” according to The New Republic. This changed when Hollywood started to take on the War on Terror and all facets of American life moved into the 21st Century.

“Hipsters affect the lumberjack’s hirsute machismo. Genteel movie stars like George Clooney and Paul Rudd tantalize paparazzi with full, bushy beards,” Adrian Bonenberger and Adam Weinstein at The New Republic reflected. “Police departments in Michigan and Texas have relaxed their officers’ notoriously strict grooming standards to permit beards and goatees. Faux-folksy politicians like Texas Senator Ted Cruz and former House speaker Paul Ryan attempt to transform their brands with a macho hairy mug—just as John Kerry and Al Gore did a few years earlier, with limited success.

“Our Hollywood war heroes, armed men who go bump in the night, grow facial hair so voluminous that perhaps their beards are what do the heavy bumping,” the magazine continued. “Even that most American of fictional G.I.s, the idealistic Steve Rogers, returns from a depressive self-exile in Avengers: Infinity War with a sexy beard that says ‘Captain America has seen some shit.'”

And the trend isn’t exclusive on the more famous faces as the razor industry recorded a five percent decline in sales last year.

According to the article, the War on Terror is responsible for this paradigm shift thanks to “the reluctance of military leaders to impose discipline on the most professional of the units that participated in” the war — “special operations forces.” The evidence for this claim, according to the mag, is apparent in the vast “proliferation of beards in the military, which now extends to civilian society. We worship the post-9/11 military operator. We are a nation drunk on ‘tacticool’ culture.”

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