Think about it. When was the last time you saw a romance hero with a beard? Even in western historicals, set mostly in the late 1800’s when facial hair was in fashion, our heroes tend to be clean shaven. Hmmm. It’s got me wondering.
In America, prior to the mid-nineteenth century, beards and moustaches were rare. Except for frontier types, certain religious groups and a few nonconformists, men shaved away their whiskers to look presentable. Then, around the time of the Civil War, the fashion changed. Men all over the country took to a garden variety of moustaches, long sideburns and full beards. What did the women think of that? I’m guessing nobody asked them.
In the late 1800’s heyday of the Old West, the rage was moustaches. Big ones. Look at old photos of, say, Wyatt Earp and his cohorts. They all sported drooping, handlebar moustaches. Even so, books set in this period, including mine, tend to feature clean shaven heroes.
Facial hair went out of fashion at the beginning of World War I. Soldiers needed clean shaven faces so their gas masks would seal tightly. Also, excessive hair on face or head posed a risk for head lice and worse. Recruits were shaved and shorn, and the style clicked. With the invention of the safety razor about this time, clean cut remained the style for decades. Beards didn’t show up again until the 1960’s and 70’s when beatniks and hippies brought them back. These days a well trimmed beard or moustache is perfectly acceptable. But when was the last time you saw one on a romance cover?
Long hair—now that’s another thing. Long haired heroes have their own brand of sizzle. Remember Fabio with his leonine mane and million dollar face? But aside from mountain men and Native Americans you don’t see many photos of long-haired men in the Old West—chin length for want of cutting maybe, but not really long. Wild Bill Hickock and Buffalo Bill were notable exceptions, but for most western men, I’m guessing long hair would have been hot and hard to keep clean, as well as unfashionable.
Which brings us to the other kind of hair. Body hair was never a fashion issue. But women tend to love it or hate it. And I have yet to see a really hairy romance hero (except for Sam here, who inspired this blog).
So what about future heroes? Speaking for myself, after wiping the drool off my TV screen at the end of “Dancing With the Stars,” I’m ready for (ta daaa) the Hairless Hero!
What do you think? Do you like hairy heroes? Would you buy a book with a bearded hero on the cover? How about the man in your own life?