Beard Clippings

A collection of my facial hair clippings

Have you ever grown a beard? If so, and you shaved it off, were you ever tempted to save the whiskers for posterity? I was, and the result is this small collection of beards.

I started growing my first beard in early 1986 when hiking on the Overland Track in Tasmania. This is a week-long wilderness walk on which shaving is not only unnecessary, but impossible if one has an electric shaver. Everyone else on the track grew whiskery and smelly (except the women, who just grew smelly), so I did too.

By the end of the walk I had a half decent beard, which I retained as a souvenir of my wilderness experience. Then I got a job, which required pressed shirts and a clean-shaven look (or so I thought), so the beard came off. Rather than throw away something I'd spent so much time growing, I decided to keep it as a souvenir, as pictured on the right. The collection had begun!

First beard

The second beard began for similar reasons - a holiday. I was travelling around the south of New Zealand in the winter, and thought some facial hair might help keep my face warm. It didn't help much, but by the end of the trip I had a substantial growth.

This beard was also retained after the holiday finished, as by then I'd grown accustomed to the drawbacks of beards. These include itchiness, hairs falling onto everything, and the smell of milk and cream after it has collected in a moustache and gone off.

The end came after a caving accident, described on another page. A small section of my chin was shaved in hospital so that a wound could be stitched; soon after I shaved off the rest for a clean start.

Second beard

Unemployment initiated my third beard. After so many years of working I enjoyed being a slob for a while; sleeping in if I needed to, and not having to shave and look presentable. The novelty of this wore off, but not before the untidy bristly look had progressed into another beard.

For some reason the less desirable aspects of facial hair became more annoying than before. Stale cappuccino froth and nose-blowing debris make a moustache lose its appeal, especially when its right under your nose. Off it all came, to be collected for posterity like the two previous beards.

To be different, this time I shaved it off in stages so I could observe how different amounts and styles of facial hair suited me. Some of the results appear below; I didn't like any of them much, but enjoyed the opportunity to try out different looks.

Third beard
Shaving off the third beard

The fourth beard was unintended. Following my appearance on the Tonight Show in Los Angeles in 2002 I found myself once again on holiday, and grew some whiskers. Unfortunately I lost the adapter which enabled my Australian shaver to plug into a US power socket, and after leaving LA was unable to find another one. With a shaver I couldn't use, a light beard developed which covered more of my face and neck than usual because it couldn't be trimmed.

On a domestic flight from Denver back to LA I was subjected to extra security checks, and I blame this largely on my beard. Security was very tight - almost paranoid - after 9/11, and the airport staff must have thought I looked suspicious, being an untidy bearded foreigner travelling on a one-way ticket. As soon as I found a new power adapter the beard came straight off, into a plastic bag of course.

Fourth beard

Like the first one, my fifth beard began during a week of hiking in which I was unable to shave; this time on the Bibbulmun Track in Western Australia in the winter of 2004. After the hike I still had a few weeks of holiday so I let myself go, facial hair included.

The hair on top of my head has been thinning and receding for years, so I was surprised when this new beard grew more vigorously than any before it! However a population explosion of grey hairs near the chin showed that the faster growth was not due to youthfulness. After a year and a half the bulkiness of the beard, my biggest yet, started getting in the way and so off it came ... but not all at once.

Fifth beard

Shaving the whole lot off at once seemed too conventional, so I did it in stages, some of which are pictured below. I wore the third arrangement ("twin waterfalls flowing from under the nose") for a few days to see if this bold new look would catch on, becoming the handlebar moustache of the twenty-first century. It didn't. The last one didn't catch on either, probably because it reminded people of an unpopular German dictator. Having confirmed I am not a fashion guru (and having a bit of fun in the process), I returned to being clean-shaven.

Shaving off the fifth beard

Collecting beards is easy! All you need to do is shave over a large sheet of paper or thin cardboard to collect all the hairs, bend and tap it to channel the hairs into the middle, then pour into a small plastic bag. Displayed in an album, a beard can trigger memories of the period of your life it was grown in, and be a piece of your own history. If you ever become as famous as Elvis Presley, it could even be worth some money!