Making Facial Hair Modern: Shaving and Hirsuteness in Post-war Britain
The author considers the re-emergence of facial hair in post-war Britain, within a wider context of reconstruction and modernisation. He suggests that while a language of efficiency, comfort and desirability was mobilised by advertisers to advocate clean-shaving in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, the bearded male—as military man or explorer—remained an aspirational figure against a cultural backdrop of looming decline. However, rather than articulating a rejection of post-war modernism, ‘fashionable Victorianism’ came to represent something altogether more complex and conflicted, at once nostalgic and sardonic, wistful and progressive. Increasingly perceived as a symbol of youthful fashionability, by the early 1970s facial hair formed part of a new, flamboyant masculinity which made claims of returning man to his ‘natural’ hirsute state, and satisfy female desires in a supposed age of companionate romance.
The author would like to thank the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training Partnership for funding the research for this chapter. Thanks also to Nick Thomas and Richard Hornsey for their advice and comments, Sarah Lancashire and Paige Nunu at Spectrum Brands, and the staff of the British Library.