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by Steven D. Johnson
Racine, Wisconsin

This month:

Pogonotrophy & Woodworking

Excellent & Inexpensive Shelf Pin Drilling Jig

Perfection Is Overrated

Get Ready For Winter Woodworking...The Right Way!


For four decades I haven't changed much...I know, you're saying, "But Steve, everybody changes, especially after that long!" Fact is, I haven't. Not my pants size, not my shirt size, not my politics or my hobbies, or even my favorite color. Take my beard as an example. I first grew it at the tender age of seventeen (the "why" is a long story for another day) and have never shaved it off, not even for a day. In fact, I know no living soul that has ever seen me without a beard.

The word "pogonotrophy" is from the Greek "pogon," meaning beard, and in this form literally means "beard feeding." Think of it as the science (or art) of beard growth. I've been feeding my beard for over 40 years. At times it has been a lonely pursuit, as the popularity of facial hair has ebbed and flowed. Once a sign of great wisdom, beards for a while seemed more emblematic of an outlaw attitude.

But the other day I was perusing the latest copy of a high-fashion magazine (the "why" is yet another long story). You know the type of magazine...200 pages of which about 150 pages are full-page or two-page slick full color advertisements for the most expensive clothing you can imagine. Dresses in the tens of thousands of dollars, men's suits for eight thousand, shirts for eight hundred, shoes for a thousand. As I was flipping through, I noticed (glorioski!) beards on some of the male models! After years of peeled, waxed, and shaved male models without a trace of facial hair (or body hair for that matter), I was so shocked I flipped through the magazine again, a bit more slowly. Then, curiosity rampaging, I did a count.

I counted only full- or double-page advertisements in which a person or persons was prominent, i.e. the focal point of the ad. I categorized them as follows:

Male featured in ad  11
Female featured in ad  22
Mixed (both male & female featured in ad)  8
Indeterminate (sorry, I couldn't tell if it was a male or female)  2

Of the 11 ads featuring male models and 8 mixed ads featuring both men and women, 8 ads featured men with beards, or roughly 42%. Beards are in style! Beards are back! By the way, none of the women had beards.

Okay, you are now beginning to wonder what the heck this has to do with woodworking. I'm getting there. Follow this logic…

Woodworking has a lot of bearded star power...Norm Abrams, Roy Underhill (‘staches count), Chris Schwarz, Bob Vila, and more. In fact, facial hair is not limited to just masters/personalities. A recent survey* indicates that roughly 75% of all woodworkers have beards.

Ergo...drum roll please...since beards are making a comeback in the fashion world and since many woodworkers have beards, woodworking is therefore also on the ascendency.

Isn't it nice to know that your hobby, and your facial hair, is once again cool? We're mainstream, we're hairy, and we are woodworkers! Go ahead, put away those waxes, peels, and razors. Head up...Chin out! Strut your stuff!

*Okay, the survey wasn't scientific...I counted the customers at a local woodworking store. Well, it's probably as accurate as any political poll!


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