My beard has just recently celebrated its second birthday. Truth be told, it's not the most impressive beard around. The bottom still doesn't properly connect to the moustache and the moustache grows considerably faster than the bottom. This means that after a week or so without a trim, I tend to resemble a rogue First World War fighter pilot or a hillbilly, neither look ranking particularly high on the style lists the last time I checked.
But I've become rather attached - and not just literally - to my facial companion, despite its slightly pathetic nature. And I've noticed that its arrival sparked some changes around me. For starters, I've been stopped at airports considerably more than BB (Before Beard). A memo must have done the rounds suggesting bearded types might well have something to declare, and as such, a bag inspection has become almost a routine part of international travel. Regardless of whether I'm sporting a suit and clutching a leather satchel (yes, that's right, I'm a leather satchel man these days), my hirsute chin pretty much guarantees a welcome of "this way sir".
Secondly, despite it being far from thick and exuberant, my beard attracts a lot of food. Rarely a day goes by without someone having to point out that half of my breakfast is still on my face, fixed by the magical powers of beardy Velcro. On the up side, it's handy when I need a quick snack.
I've also noticed that in the time I've had my beard, more people appear to be joining me in ditching the razor. I'm not suggesting that I'm a trendsetter (although I did start wearing combat trousers in the early 1990s before they hit the big time), it seems that my beardy beginnings have coincided with a boom time for hairy faces. Unfortunately, everyone else's are far superior to mine and I hear comments such as "yeah, John's is much better".
To be honest, I only stopped shaving as a knee-jerk reaction to stepping out of the nine-to-five rat race. It seemed like the obvious thing to do. Go freelance: grow a beard. Now back in the realms of full-time work, perhaps it's time to dust off the Mach 5 and see what my chin looks like. Who knows what's lurking beneath?