Lauren Bravo: are beards newsworthy?

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“I CAN’T believe this paper considers Jeremy Paxman’s facial hair important enough to devote a half-page story to,” harrumphed a letter in a paper I was reading in Scotland last week.

“Perhaps you can also update us next time he cuts his toenails?”

I should maybe say that I was in Edinburgh, not just reading my way across the British Isles looking for grumpy people – but I suspect there were many similar moans south of Hadrian’s Wall, as well.

Okay, ‘Man Grows Beard’ might not be the biggest scoop since Watergate, but there are several things the ‘IT’S NOT NEWS!’ brigade could do well to understand.

First, it’s August. Tis the season known as silly, not just because nothing much happens, but because even if it does happen, we’d rather give our brains a summer holiday and focus on a roller-skating squirrel instead. When I spent August as a rookie reporter on this very paper, we ran a front-pager headed “Baby born with teeth!”.

In September, all the back-to-school news will start again and we’ll have to concentrate on interest rates and climate change and which new delicious thing gives us cancer each week, and we’ll sit around saying, “Ahhh… do you remember that lovely evening we spent in August, finishing up the limoncello and laughing about a man on telly’s chin?”

Secondly, beards kinda are news these days.

They’re the biggest thing to happen to men’s faces since eyebrow piercing fell out of favour.

Until gender-neutral make up finds its place in society (and any man who claims he’s never looked at the Maybelline counter with a pang of longing to conceal his hangover eye-bags is definitely lying), hair is the only real option men have for cosmetic customisation.

So, go crazy, chaps! Have fun! There’s a veritable chin wardrobe of styles to try out there, from lustrous moustaches to manicured goatees, or fashion’s current fave, the lumberjack fuzz cloud beloved of Mumford and Sons, Brian Blessed and Mr Twit.

Jeremy’s salt-and-pepper speckling was a modest but notable stand against the BBC’s reported pogonophobia, to use a word we’ve all only just learned – a sort of ‘talk to the follicles, cos the face ain’t listening’ thing.

Thirdly, if a man’s hair is not news then, I put it to you, neither is a woman’s.

One day of chat about a male presenter’s appearance garners a sea of well-meaning splutters, but we still have whole magazines devoted to little more than whether or not Gwyneth Paltrow has wrinkly knees. It may be trivial, but at least Paxo’s beard was technically news in being, well, new – bare breasts have been around since cave ladies first grew them, but it doesn’t stop The Sun giving them page-three priority on a daily basis. So shhhh, killjoys. You’ll get your proper articles back soon enough. And if you don’t like it, maybe write a few more letters about other things not being news, either.