Bob joined our beards of the world gallery back in 2006. Since then, he has sent in occasional updates. You can check out Bob’s beards of the world gallery photos by clicking on any of the thumbnail images immediately below.
Now Bob has offered to show us his tremendous beard history, going back to 1974. When asked to tell readers something about himself, including some incidents related to his beard, Bob wrote:
I’m a writer/editor and spent about fifteen years writing for magazines, including 4-Wheel & Off-Road, Inside Print, Progressive Architecture, and Home. I’m now editing and writing for a consultancy that works with the federal government. Like all writers, I’m working on a novel — we’ll see how that goes.
I’m a true cinephile, so I could basically watch movies 24/7, especially old movies and independent films. For a many years I was dedicated to weightlifting, but I’ve tapered that off a bit and now balance between aerobic exercise and weights. I like to read, write, and spend time with my wife and girls.
When I went to register for classes as a freshman at Northwestern in 1975, I had a pretty long, full beard. When I stepped up to hand in my class list, the girl at the table took one look at me and said, “Ummm…graduate registration was yesterday.” I explained that, while that was very nice, I was a freshman.
I had a couple of friends in high school who called me Beardo; some others called me Abe Lincoln. I told them, since my last name is Jefferson, they got the wrong president.
Scroll down to read Bob’s story. Then, be sure to visit:
The photos on this page and in Bob’s beard history album were provided by Bob and are used with permission. All photos are subject to the site’s conditions of use.
What do you think of beards?
A beard is incredibly cool in all its formats (I have tried nearly every one) and makes a statement about the man wearing it. Typically he is cut from a different sort of cloth, someone who is willing to do something different and take dares. I resist the assumption that some make that a man is trying to “hide” behind whiskers. I say this because when I look out at the world, no matter how long my beard is, I don’t feel like I’m “behind” anything.
Why do you grow your beard now?
Lots of reasons. I like the look of a beard on me and my wife prefers it as well, although she would really prefer me to keep it short. I like it short as well, but I’m more experimental than anything else. I’m usually heading in a direction—shaving, growing, clipping and starting all over again. Most people who know me don’t even bother to comment when they see the latest facial hair format I’ve chosen. It’s rare for me to go a whole year looking the exact same way. I like change.
I like the low maintenance factor as well; with a beard I can shave a bit of my neck and be done with it. The few times I’ve completely shaved my face, I’ve grown tired of shaving every morning and abandoned it pretty quickly.
Do you remember from childhood ever wanting to grow a beard when you grew up?
I grew up in the prime hippie era, the 60s, and I couldn’t wait to be old enough to have a beard and long hair. I was also a history nut and was pretty impressed with some of the beards on men at the turn of the 20th century. You look at some of those huge beards and think it must have been so cool to live in that era. Also, my dad really hated beards, so that was just icing on the cake.
Do you recall your earliest memories of beards?
In the early 1960s beards were so rare, any time I saw one it was something of an event. I guess it was all beatniks (absolutely cool), lumberjacks, pirates…who else?
Did any relatives or anyone you know have a beard when you were growing up? If so, did that influence you in any way?
Surprisingly, no male in my family or immediate circle had a beard. I was not influenced by anyone I knew personally at all growing up. Perhaps that’s why I was so interested in growing one myself, because it would really set me apart from the ordinary.
At what age did you grow your first beard?
I grew my first beard at seventeen. Story below…
What prompted you to grow your first beard?
I was using an electric shaver that had been handed down to me from my grandfather. I was skittish about using blades back then. I went on a trip to Finland and the Soviet Union during my junior year of high school and didn’t realize until I got there that I couldn’t plug in my shaver anywhere. I had never seen the effects of not shaving for more than a week, so I figured this was as good a time as any. When we returned to New York, the customs agent said, “You changed your picture.” I was afraid he meant that I was in some sort of trouble until I realized he was referring to that fact that I had a beard, but my passport photo was clean shaven. When my parents picked me up, the only thing my dad said was, “That’s coming off the second we get home.”
What did you think of your first beard?
I liked it because it was so new and different. (Was I cool or WHAT?) I decided right then that I would never shave again (what did I know?). Looking back on it, it was pretty lame. The mustache and beard did not connect and it was pretty sparse, but at the time I thought it was excellent.
What happened to that beard?
My dad finally got his way and I shaved for a while. I hoped that shaving for a bit longer would help it get a little thicker and solid. I decided to shave for six months or so and try again to see what happened.
When did you grow your next beard?
The following fall when I turned eighteen I thought it was time. There was another guy at my school with a beard and it was pretty thick and cool looking, so I figured it was time to give it a shot. Lo and behold, something had changed in those six months, because it came in a lot fuller with no bare spots and wholly connected. It was cool to be one of two guys in the whole school with a beard, until a few more tried it. I enjoyed the exclusive “club” we had.
Did you observe changes in your beard as you got older?
It only filled in more and got thicker. I think I inherited that from my mom’s side of the family. My brother’s beard is one of those out-of-control, thick, amazingly full things that comes up to his cheekbones. He’s never had a job that allowed him to have it for very long, so he just has a mustache or a goatee most of the time.
How did you feel about the way your beard developed?
Great. I’m not sure I would change anything about it. Except when it’s very long and backlit, I can’t see through it. I have a few stray hairs between the upper beard line and my cheekbones that I have to carefully shave off, but otherwise the lines and thickness are pretty good.
You say that you’ve favored the full beard over other styles most of the time. Why?
I’ve tried everything in the years since that first full beard, but I always come back to the full. I just like the way it looks and, once again, the maintenance factor. Whether it’s short or long, all I have to shave is my neck—actually, when I was in my twenties I usually grew it long enough so I wouldn’t even have to shave my neck anymore. Those were the days.
What brought you to shave off the beard completely at times or go to just a mustache?
Change, pure and simple. I like change. I would say that, in general, I have a full beard 70% of any given year. The other 30% might be a moustache, goatee, chin beard, or just long sideburns. Right now I’m testing my wife’s patience with a long full beard, but I’m sure at some point I am going to want to trim it down again. We’ll see…
How many times has this happened?
I’m pretty sure, especially from high school, through about twenty-six years old, I had a full beard consistently. I was more into growing my hair long and cutting it in those days. But at a certain point in my late twenties I started really getting experimental, so I got into that 70/30 pattern I discussed earlier.
How did you feel about it, losing the beard at those times?
I remember the first couple of times I shaved my beard completely off, I thought someone had also removed my chin. I was so used to seeing my face as a certain shape and size I was not prepared for what was really under there. Sometimes I would grow it right back, but I came to realize that my chin is actually pretty strong, and I just have to give myself a couple of days to get used to the new proportions before making any hasty decisions.
What led you back to the full beard each time?
I simply prefer the way it looks on me, the way it feels, and the low maintenance. More importantly, my wife really loves it.
What made you a “dedicated, permanent beard grower”?
I guess I like the process, and that is probably why I take a break from it every so often. Growing it back after a short hiatus takes me back to my roots (seriously, no pun intended).
What was the status of the beard when you got married?
Bearded, long hair. Just how my wife met me. It seemed perfect, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I think it looked cool to be wearing a tux with a nice full beard and long hair.
How does your family feel about your beard? Has this changed over the years?
My wife likes me bearded, but she prefers it to be between short and Don Johnson stubble. I like it a bit longer, and sometimes, like right now, a LOT longer. My two daughters like it because for the most part this is how they know me. However, they have known me with every iteration of facial hair known to man, so they’re good with anything, which I appreciate.
How do others react to your beard? Do you get a lot of feedback on your beard?
Most people I know have known me with a beard almost exclusively. I think they take note when I trim or shave it, but I don’t think they are surprised by change from me. I think if you asked any of my friends or acquaintances to describe me, the first thing they would say is, “He has a beard…”
How do you feel about your beard?
Great. Of all the things I’ve tried, a full beard can’t be beat. I like the way it looks and the way it feels. My wife likes it best as well — she definitely does not like the mustache, is semi-OK with the goatee, and doesn’t really like clean shaven. She’s a very patient woman.
Has your beard had any effect on your self-confidence?
Not really. I think self-confidence comes from within, so you either have it or you don’t. And again, until you look in the mirror, you really can’t SEE the beard, so it’s not a part of your interactions with people.
How does it feel to have been a beard grower since 1974?
Despite all the changes I’ve been through with my facial hair over the years, I really like the consistency of having had a full beard since junior year of high school (1974).
What do you like best about your beard?
My beard is nice and thick and filled in. The color is also kind of interesting. It’s brown like my hair, but in the old days, when I grew it long in the summer, it turned orangy-red (I have a lot of red hair on both sides of my family). Now that I’m older, I’m getting gray around the muzzle and it’s kind of cool. I’m assuming that my beard is going to get completely gray in the next
5-10 years, so we’ll see how that goes.
Do you have any complaints about your beard?
Not one, except for maybe those errant hairs on my upper cheeks that I have to shave every now and again — small potatoes, really.
What have you learned from your beard-growing experiences?
I’m amazed at how people want/need consistency. When I started trimming, shaving, and growing my beard over and over, some people would seem perturbed about it. “Make up your mind,” they would say. I wondered why they cared so much, since it’s my face. But I learned that people like things to remain the same most of the time. I know people who have not so much as changed the part in their hair for twenty years. Now I think everyone I know expects me to look a little different if they haven’t seen me for a while, so that’s become their consistency.
Have others asked you for advice on growing a beard?
Not a lot. A couple of times guys have said they can’t grow a beard, and I can’t respond because I never saw what it looked like. Not every guy can grow a beard that suits him. My advice would be: don’t shave and see what happens, but give it time. Too many guys bail too early.
Do you encourage other to grow their beards?
Just the other day this guy at work with a long gray ponytail (very cool looking) had some stubble and I asked him about it. He said he was mulling it over. I told him to go for it, and I realized that I am quite a booster of beard-dom when I get the chance. I guess I like guys to join the club.
Do you take a lot of pride in your beard?
Amen. It’s a large part of my appearance, and I think it looks good.
What do you think about being featured on beards.org?
Pretty amazing. I feel like beard wearers are a small segment of the male population (statistically, anyway) and of the thousands of guys who have contributed to beards.org, to be singled out for the featured beards section is quite an honor.
What do you think of beards.org?
It’s pretty fun. It makes you realize that there are a lot of guys like me who like beards and want to share them around. I think I found the site sometime in 2005. I sent in my first pics in 2006.
Click on any of the images in the photo collage immediately above to go to Bob’s beard history photo album.