I blame the economy. That's an easy out. But from my front row seat at the financial crisis (The Wall Street Journal offices in New York), I witnessed an economy in free fall, taking with it the grooming habits of New York City males. In the space of a month, a city previously filled with energized, well-suited, clean-shaven men became a ghetto of sleep-deprived, scuff-shoed, wrinkle-suited, unshaven shadows shuffling through the streets in a haze of shock and disbelief.
Fed chairman Ben Bernanke-who became a totem of hope, or at least the last bastion against the threat of another Great Depression-was bearded. The villain of the piece, Bernie Madoff, was not; appearing at all times clean-shaven and bespoke-suited. Suddenly looking less like a successful banker and more like a man who was up to a challenge on the mean streets wasn't only preferable, it was practically mandatory. In the space of a few short weeks, beards became symbols of empathy and humility, a rejection of the overt pursuit of the capitalist ideal.
Men are wearing beards now because of Ben Bernanke.
No. That's definitely not it.