GENERAL ARTICLES

Beaver!

JOHN FRANCIS March 15 1945
GENERAL ARTICLES

Beaver!

JOHN FRANCIS March 15 1945

Beaver!

It’s a ticklish question, this business of facial foliage. In the services, by gad, sir, it is governed by regulations

JOHN FRANCIS

ONCE there was a black-haired Frenchman. His wife, also black-haired, presented him with offspring at suitable intervals, but, while

M. Francois made them welcome, something about their appearance puzzled him. They all had fiery red hair! In fact, after about the seventh or eighth, he began to suspect marital infidelity.

In a huff he retired to the African hinterland to settle on an appropriate course of action. Years passed and he had reached no decision. T. hen one day, when he emerged from the jungle to lay in a supply of canned soup and corn flakes, he found a shipment of mirrors had arrived at the trading post. Drawn with fatal fascination he picked one up and looked in it. Imagine his astonishment when he discovered he was completely bald. Not only that, but he had a fiery red beard !

Dr. Thomas Fuller in his Gnomologia, a best seller of 1732, said, “He is false by nature that has a black head and a red beard.” Grounds for such an accusation are quite obscure, and it’s going to offend three sailors I know. Members of a torpedo party in the RCNVR they started to grow beards the same day. Though each was dark-haired, their beards emerged

red. ,

Beards have always been a tradition in the British Navy. So it’s natural that beards should have been adopted enthusiastically by Canadian tars. Officers and men are permitted to wear beards and mustaches, but one can’t be worn without the other. This rule knows no exceptions in the Canadian Navy. Use of the razor must be discontinued entirely, and hair of the beard and mustache must be kept neatly cut and

trimmed. The captain has full authority to take whatever steps may be necessary to ensure uniformity of appearance among the beards under his command.

The growing of beards may begin as a mass movement aboard a ship, but a rating can’t just decide, “Here it is Tuesday. Guess I’ll raise a beard.” A ritual is involved that makes getting into Hitler’s parlor at Berchesgarten seem simple by comparison. The rating must first apply to his divisional officer to appear in captain’s requestmen. The divisional officer passes the word to the lieutenant, who takes it to the commanding officer. In due course the requestmen are called before the captain and the rating then asks permission to grow a beard. He’s got to have a reason: two frequent ones are protection against the weather and because of a tender skin. I he commanding officer passes his decision back to the rating through the lieutenant and the divisional officer.

Hair Today: Gone Tomorrow

TF THE application is granted and at the end of two weeks the beard seems to be making no progress, the captain can order it shaved off. This is more of an understanding than a rule, but it offers relief to the sailor who finds he cannot stand the crawling sensation of a growing beard. Approaching the captain with tears in his eyas, he can say, pleadingly, “It’s awful, sir, isn’t it?” If the captain is merciful he will agree, and command instant removal of the offending protrusion.

The would-be bearded seaman can t leave his ship till his appearance is respectable. 1 his is no hardship

at sea, but on land it may be. Able Seaman Doug Smith, Toronto, tells me he hadn’t heard of this regulation when he got the go-ahead signal to sprout a beard aboard HMCS York Consequently he was confined to the ship—the Automotive Building at the Canadian National Exhibition—until it fully bloomed. His girl wouldn’t speak to him when he did get ashore. “And now,” he said sadly, “I’ve got to wait three months before I can ask to take the thing off!

The beard has not escaped criticism on other than aesthetic grounds. At the enquiry held after the sinking of the frigate HMCS Valleyfield it was revealed that two of the men lost might possibly have survived had they not been wearing beards. The beards, matted with oil and salt water, were believed to have suffocated them. On winter escort duty the beard can become waterlogged from condensation of the breath, or from rain or spray, and the wearer could suffer frostbite, while his clean-shaven companions escaped unscathed. There is also the difficulty, in case of an enemy gas attack, of housing a beard in a respirator.

On the other hand, Surgeon-Lieut. Ted Mepham, Hamilton, well-qualified to speak because of his own impressive razor blade destroyer, maintains that a beard is definitely conducive to warmth. He points out that, in action, beards may provide a measure of protection against superficial facial injuries.

Beards aren’t popular in the engine room or stokehold. They are apt to become clogged with grease and perspiration, and when they do are most uncomfortable. The men on the upper deck who cultivate

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Beaver!

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chin fur do so for various reasons, and a surprising number seem to have had mustaches in civilian life. It may be a psychological outlet, an assertioif of one’s individuality in the midst of regimentation, or simply the subconscious urge of a Caspar Milquetoast to turn himself into a swashbuckling buccaneer.

Today the Canadian soldier cannot, like his Navy cousin, apply to his commanding officer , for permission to grow a beard. Modern Army regulations stipulate that chin and underlip must he shaved and whiskers, if worn, must be of moderate length. There’s one exception: some Canadians in the 8th Army in Italy are permitted to cultivate facial spinach because of the shortage of water. Officers and men vie with one another in making the most of this unique opportunity. One colonel, commander of a pioneer group, awarded a bottle of champagne to the pioneer who sported the handsomest growth at the end of a month.

In the grime and grind of heavy fighting, soldiers have little time to respect the niceties of civilization. The daily shave, and admonition, “Stand closer to the razor, Rub!” are temporarily forgotten. But the Old Bill type of mustache, with its luxurious mattressing of the entire upper lip, and the * sergeant-major model of the Great. War, with waxed pointed tips projecting a foot on each side, are infrequently seen. Most soldiers want to keep their faces as free from hair as possible it simplifies the medical officer’s job too —and a good shave is regarded as a mighty fine morale booster.

Regulations for the Air Force are similar to those in the Army. The airman’s face must be kept cleanshaven, though KB may wear a suitably trimmed mustache if he so desires. This ruling automatically eliminates such exotic creations as the goatee, shag, mane, mutton chops, Bohemian and plain hairy ape. No authority seems willing to commit himself as to what constitutes a “suitably trimmed” mustache, and research does not reveal that anyone has ever been subjected to disciplinary action for having an “unsuitably trimmed” one.

In the past the Air Force had a stipulation to the effect that upper lip must be completely shaven or entirely unshaven. This was to discourage microscopic smudges and dohickies. Personnel were, and still are, advised

not to wear unclipped mustaches with long ends belonging in the “Bowser” category, but these are nevertheless very popular overseas. They are worn at the owner’s risk, however, because a mustache of heroic devil-may-care proportions can keep an oxygen mask from being fully airtight, and this condition could be fatal.

The famous flying twins, Melvin and Calvin Lee, Flight-Lieutenants from Vancouver, who established dual records on antisubmarine patrols over the Bay of Biscay, both grew long, lush mustaches. Since they were identical in this, as in every other respect, the task of telling them apart was made well-nigh impossible. Their messmates rebelled and, neither one wishing to part with his beloved “Bowser,” the twins compromised. Cal turned up the ends of his mustache, while Mel continued to let his expand horizontally.

Sweethearts, wives and mothers will likely determine how long their boys retain hirsute embellishments after hostilities cease. There’s no doubt, that possession of a mustache or heard is often an advantage. It can camouflage or detract attention from some otherwise unsightly feature, like a prominent nose or chin, as well as add years to the appearance of doctors, lawyers and other professional men who must present a dignified, refined front to the world.

Beards can be functionally useful too. An aunt of mine, visiting New York some years ago, went to a famous hairdresser to get a permanent.. He had a long beard and as he removed her hairpins carefully stuck them in it for safekeeping! Smugglers have used beards since time immemorial as hiding places for small objects. So many of Alexander the Great’s Macedonians had their beards used as handles by enemies, who seized them and lopped the owners’ heads off, that the famous general decreed that his soldiers must go barefaced to battle.

Long Tradition of Beards

The ancient Egyptians shaved, hut for special ceremonies donned artificial pointed chin tufts resembling the real ones worn by their primitive ancestors. The beards of Persian kings were dyed and braided with golden thread. Assyrian nobles curled their facial appendages into a curious spade design and anointed them with oil. Shaving was the fashion in early Greece and Rome, though from the time of Hadrian onward beards were favored.

To swear by the beard is an oath as old as time itself. Mohammed, founder of the Islamic religion, wore hair on his face, and “By the beard of the Prophet” is not lightly said in Mohammedan countries. History records the amazement with which the Saracens, conquerors of the Holy Land, beheld the clean-shaven visages of the Crusaders. The little son of their leader, Saladin, burst into tears when he saw Christian envoys arriving at his father’s camp.

As a nation the English have been swayed by many moods, shaving or not shaving with the passing of centuries. While beards were worn by early English warriors, they were no longer popular by the time of the Norman Conquest. Crusaders who returned home wearing mustaches were at first considered effeminate, but to them goes credit for breaking down the barriers of public prejudice and inauguration of an era wherein bearded, mustached and clean-shaven countenances flourish side by side.

Though good Queen Bess taxed them, her reign was marked by a glorious boom in beards. Czar Ivan the Terrible, in his hours of relaxation -when he wasn’t dissecting his relatives or pouring ice water over naked maidens to make frozen statues for the palace grounds—liked to gently stroke the five-foot beard of George Killingworth, English ambassador to the Russian court. Will Shakespeare, who speaks of the soldier “bearded like the pard,” boasted no mean foliage himself. In time, as hirsute ornaments became increasingly elaborate, Puritan pamphleteers denounced them as vain artifices and decried the time spent curling and starching, powdering and perfuming them.

Van Dyck, the painter remembered for his famous portrait of Charles I, gave his name to the King’s beard. Outlawed during the dictatorship of the clean-shaven Cromwell, beards returned to favor with the Restoration. By Queen Anne’s day the pendulum had swung back. As wigs came in, hair on the face went out. For a time beards, mustaches and whiskers were completely lacking, then as wigs began to disappear the mustache returned. Designating in the 18th century a soldier from beyond the seas, it was worn by nearly all the dashing young cavalry officers who served at Waterloo. Few civilians dared to wear mustaches, however. It was regarded as a strictly military prerogative.

History’s Close Shave

Emancipation from the razor came with the Crimean War. The beards of

returned officers and men became familiar sights in London. Then came the volunteer movement, with amateurs in uniform taking the liberties of professional soldiers. The prevailing fashion combined mustaches with long, droopy whiskers aptly called “Piccadilly weepers.” Meanwhile General Burnside, in the United States, was originating a new style bearing his name, and in France, Emperor Napoleon III had achieved the ultimate in hirsute architecture with his “Imperial” mustache and beard.

By the end of the century whiskers were common only on veteran officers of the British Army, but the mustache was almost universally worn. It was forbidden to shave the upper lip in deference to a theory that muscles of the eye, influenced by nerves located just below the nose, would suffer injury through frequent shaving and thus impair a soldier’s aim. About 1916 this rule was abolished, perhaps because the lip-eye relationship was discovered to be harmless or because the majority of. the youths drafted for military service had not even a shadow on their faces.

Fighting men of India wear hair on their faces. The Gurkhas are characterized by dark, neatly kept mustaches, and the Sikhs by full flowing beards, often gathered into nets like those worn by Canadian women to protect their coiffures.

The men of China, by nature more inclined to the ways of peace than to those of war, possess facial follicles that are relatively unproductive. Most Chinese would be unable to grow a beard, so tremendous prestige accrues to those fortunate enough to have a little fuzz on their faces. Scholars and sages qualifying in this class have long worn Mandarin-type mustaches with a few wisps of hair on their chins.

It’s significant that Japan broke with its traditional custom of the razor when the present military dictatorship was set up. The manufacture of mustaches on the upper lips of those lucky enough to have sufficient raw material has become a national industry. Mary Evans, Toronto girl who visited the Orient before the war, actually met, in the person of Mr. Yamaguchi, manager of the Fujiya Hotel at Myanoshita, the president of the Mustache Club of Japan. He took great pride in his achievement, and used pictures of fellow club members to decorate the lounge.

In the Near East the beard has always been an object of reverence. A symbol of maturity in mental and physical development, it has inspired

respect for and confidence in the patriarchs of the tribe. To remove one’s own beard was regarded as a sign of mourning. To touch another’s beard was an insult; to actually cut it off was an outrage. David advised his ambassadors, whose beards had been mutilated by the Ammonites, to “'Parry at Jericho until your beards be grown,” and followed this injunction with a declaration of war.

Prohibition in Mosaic law of the marring of the corners of the beard has been interpreted by the Talmud as denying, to orthodox male followers of the Hebrew faith, the privilege of using a blade or knife on the face. The custom of not shaving, hallowed by long practice, is now taken to be an indication of piety by many young orthodox Jews.

Roman Catholics are free to pursue personal inclinations in the matter of mustaches, whiskers and beards, though for members of the clergy it is a case of “all or nothing at all.” Father J. I. Bergin, editor of a leading Catholic magazine, tells me that he has never seen a priest with a mustache. Legislation on the subject dates back to A.D. 503. There is no restriction on beards and, if good reason were given, it is unlikely that permission to grow one would be refused. Many monastic and missionary orders wear beards, though their members must not allow hair on the upper lip to impede their drinking from the chalice. The Canadian martyrs, Brébeuf and Lallemand, were bearded Jesuits.

The aristocracy of the Greek Orthodox Church are distinguished by their beards. The snow-white beard of the Metropolitan Benjamin, head of the Russian branch of the Church in America, creates a sensation everywhere he travels. In the news because of his appointment as Regent, Archbishop Damaskinos of Greece wears the traditional full beard. War correspondent Wallace Rey burn says the beard is grey, with what looks, at a distance, like a brown mustache, but which turns out, on closer inspection, merely to be proof that he is a heavy smoker.

Certain Protestant sects have at one time or another adopted the beard as a religious trademark. The House of David, whose baseball teams used to visit Canada, does not permit its members to shave. On a warm day several years ago my father attended one of their games. He says it was played by two teams, one white and one colored. As the innings progressed an unbelievable thing happened. The beards of the House of David’s colored children slowly drooped, then fell right off’. Far from being perturbed, they unconcernedly picked up the errant shrubbery, stuffed it into their pockets and went on with the game.

One Man’s Opinion

Frank Beckett, barber at Ontario’s Parliament Buildings, who has been shaving the faces of the great and neargreat for a long time, thinks that our grandfathers had good heads of hair because they let their beards grow. “Pull out the family album some night,” he advises. “You may get lots of laughs but you’ll find very few bald heads.” His personal theory is simply this: the body produces a given

quantity of hair nutriment. If a man shaves daily, this nutriment goes chiefly to regrow the hair cut off. The hair on the head, denied its supply, is weakened and baldness results.

To raise a beard or mustache it’s best never to start shaving. The first hair that emerges from the face is fine as silk, soft as a whisper not wiry in texture like that which comes after

decades of battling the razor. But even the toughest beard can, with patience, acquire a well-groomed look. The accusation that a beard is unsanitary is without foundation, providing reasonable attention is paid to properly trimming and washing it. Use of comb and brush are part of the regimen for good beard health. Never apply shellac or varnish to the beard.

If you must shave you might like to know that the earliest razors in the possession of the Royal Ontario Museum are flakes of natural glass— obsidian—found in the region of the Upper Nile. These razors were brought from Milos, an island in the Aegean Sea, and date from 3500 B.C.

Bronze and, after 1000 B.C., iron were fashioned into crude razors. The face was scraped rather than shaved. As the Greeks and Romans had shears and combs very like our own, these instruments were presumably used for dressing the beards of antiquity. The straight razor in its present form dates from the 18th century, though hollowgrinding is a later improvement. The safety razor came on the market about 1900 and, of course, the electric razor is a very recent development.

All these devices are usually left behind when the Canadian male leaves home for an outdoor vacation. He returns bearded, to be greeted by the inevitable female lament, “Why did

you have to do it?” Explorers and travellers of pioneer days were more particular about appearing at anything less than their best, according to C. W. Jefferys, noted illustrator of Canadian history. Even Alexander Mackenzie, on completion of his overland trek to the Pacific coast, shaved before entering the village of Bella Coola.

Indians plucked out potential beards and mustaches, but, speaking generally, styles in early Canadian whiskerature followed patterns set in the Old World. Cartier and Champlain wore hair on their faces, La Salle and Montcalm did not. Of the 34 Fathers of Confederation, one had a button goatee, six were clean-shaven, and 27 had either whiskers or beards. Of the 11 men who have held the office of Prime Minister since 1867, Macdonald, Laurier, Meighen, Bennett and King were clean-shaven, Borden had a mustache, Mackenzie and Bowell were bearded, and Abbott, Thompson and Tupper wore whiskers. For sheer picturesqueness, Sir Charles Tupper’s side whiskers were probably the most remarkable ever seen in the East Block.

Monty Woolley, radio and screen star, has attired himself in a beard and made it pay dividends for the past 17 years. He strongly advocates making a place for beards in all postwar planning.