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More of the story: Cheers or jeers for the beard that’s reappeared?

beardFor 22 years, Mississippi State University baseball players were required to have clean shaven, squeaky clean, whisker-free faces. But after Trevor Fitts, a sophomore MSU pitcher, gave a 10-minute presentation to coach John Cohen this year, explaining reasons why Cohen should lift the ban on face fuzz, things got a little hairy.

Fitts argued that having a beard would help store body heat, save time wasted shaving that could be spent practicing or preparing for games, boost confidence and intimidate the opposing team. Cohen was convinced, and now beards have reappeared — not only at MSU but across the nation.

Look around, and you’ll see Abe Lincolns everywhere. Celebrites like David Beckham, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Hugh Jackman, Prince William, Jon Hamm and Superman Henry Cavill have jumped on the beard bandwagon. And websites like Beards.com <http://Beards.com> will tell you how to grow one.

Tupelo resident and MSU grad Kevin Tate, 41, has a theory about why beards are back, and he thinks the MSU players may “help carve new paths for others in the world of the unshaven.”

“If the resurgence says anything from a philosophical standpoint, I’d suppose it would be related to a recognition of the value of personal reliability,” said the bearded vice president of media productions for West Point’s Mossy Oak, a company that produces television programs that air nationally on the Outdoor Channel and the Pursuit Channel.

“I’m not saying we’re all prepping for some undefined future societal collapse, but it’s nice to remember we could procure our own food and water and defend our families from chaos if need be. Wearing a beard, in some ways, is a subtle reminder of that, even if the only person we’re reminding is the one in the mirror.”

“Duck Dynasty” may also be a beard influence, Tate said.

“We (at Mossy Oak) have known (the Robertsons) for many years professionally,” he said. “. . . The fact they’ve made their enterprise a national, long-term success, while wearing what they term ‘man beards,’ has been good for beards and beard-kind in particular.”

Tate said his wife prefers him scruffy, and apparently, there are many women who don’t fear the beard. A recent beard study conducted by the University of South Wales found that women viewed bearded men as more masculine, healthier and attractive.

Southaven resident Holly Vaughn, 30, has accepted her husband Jonathan’s beard, but sometimes thinks he grows it long just to annoy her. However, he’s the one who gets annoyed when people frequently tell him they think he looks like one of the “Duck Dynasty” clan.

The MSU graduate said she’d rather her husband shave, but she supports his decision to have a beard, as well as the members of her alma mater’s baseball team.

If the baseball team guys want to grow beards, let them,” said the insurance associate. “It’s their face and their decision.”

Winona native Michael Vaughan, a hairdresser at High Maintenance Salon in Olive Branch, said facial hair today is almost as important as the hair on someone’s head.

“I’ve been a hairdresser for the past five years, and a majority of the haircuts that are done on my male clientele are based on their face shape and facial hair,” he said. ‘Most of my clients are female, and I can assure you that every woman that sits in my chair loves for their man to look … well, like a man.”

Vaughan describes that look as: “Scruffy, modern day cave man – a sense of GQ meets Southern gentleman.”

Baldwyn resident Jessica Webb, 26, loves her husband, Jason’s beard.

“I definitely think his beard makes him look and seem more masculine,” said the stay-at-home mom.

Jason Webb, 29, said having a beard is a right of passage, and he supports the bearded ball players.

“For me, a band of brothers growing their beards out is a special bond with men,” he said. Saltillo resident C. Richard Cotton, 61, began growing a beard at 57.

“I discovered that the testosterone in my body must have finally reached a level that allowed me to grow a full beard,” said the freelance photographer and journalist. “Prior to that, there were two stubborn areas that just refused to grow whiskers.”

Cotton said he isn’t familiar with the MSU baseball beards, but if they keep winning, he predicts more Mississippians will be wearing them.

Madison resident Hunter Gibson has had beards off and on for years.

“I have noticed more beards in general from baseball and football players,” he said. “I think it has and will continue to have a huge impact on beard growing in the general population.”

Sadly, Gibson’s wife finds his beard a little weird, and it’s something she’s jeered.

“That’s a sore subject, literally,” he said. “She prefers me shaved because my beard has always been prickly, even though I’m constantly putting lotion on it to soften it. She would love me to shave it, but I’m just not ready yet. Sorry honey.”

Byram native Marty McAlilly, 56, has had a beard since age 30, but this year, he wanted to “Go ‘Duck.’”

“I went from September until February with no haircut and no beard trim,” said the owner of McAlilly Pest Control in Byram, “but the bride said that was long enough.”

Jane Sherman Wasser, owner of The Skin District Medical Esthetics and Massage in Flowood, said her 24-year-old son just graduated from MSU and has had facial hair since high school.

“He interviewed with it and has started work as an architect associate with a firm in Alabama,” she said. “Several people told him to shave it before interviews, but he refused. In the past, I think it mattered, but I believe … times are changing.”

Raymond resident Stephen Carr, 23, grows a beard every year before deer season.

“For me, it’s more of confidence thing,” said the Mississippi Department of Transportation employee. “And I believe it’s more of a way to show others I don’t work in a office behind desk. I work outside with my hands, and in an outdoor mountain man style that I like.”

His wife has gotten used to the stubble.

“At first, she was like ‘no,’” he said. “But now, she gets mad when I shave it. She likes the more Grizzly Adams side of me.”

Carr also supports the baseball players.

“I am a full blood State fan, and I hope it will influence more,” he said.

Belhaven resident Daryl Neely, 42, was inspired to grow a beard after participating in the Warrior Dash race in Jackson.

“I saw some big beards out there,” said the Mississippi Development Authority project manager. “I guess you can say ‘beard envy’ kicked in, so I’ve been growing mine out since April. It’s finally getting long enough where eating food can be an issue.”

Neely said sports has always influenced men.

“And sports teams, be it for extra mojo, team solidarity, or good luck – have always grown beards – especially during the playoffs,” he said. “You see it a lot in hockey and, of course, baseball. The Boston Red Sox, of which I am no fan, rocked beards during some of their great runs.”

“Beard mojo” is working for the MSU baseball team, he said.

“No matter why they decided to do it, they should keep it going,” he said. “There are worse superstitions. Some teams don’t wash their uniforms during a win streak. At least the beards don’t smell bad. MSU’s wins are only adding to the beard mania.”

Got a comment? E-mail me at endyanna@earthlink.com or Tweet me at @lareecarucker.

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