I’m not one of those awesome women who can grow a beard, but I know that the decision to grow a beard must be a big one. When a man decides to grow a beard, he adopts a whole new face. If he’s never had a beard before and doesn’t know what he’s getting into, it is a fairly risky experiment. This isn’t so bad if you only have your family and friends to worry about (although I would imagine it’s still pretty nerve-racking), but for a celebrity, a change in facial hair elicits scrutiny and psychoanalysis from millions of people. And there’s no going back – those pictures will be floating around on the Internet forever.

That is why I accord much respect to celebrities who experiment with beards, even if these experiments have disastrous results. One of the most famous new beards on the A-list scene is that of Brad Pitt, who started sprouting sometime last year and now sports a graying, scraggly goatee and mustache combo. Pitt has had beards before, including a particularly Mountain Man-ish one in 2002, but he’s never braided it or strung little Jack Sparrow beads in it before. Personally, I think there’s no shame in wearing the pirate look, but other fans are less pleased with Pitt’s new style. Polls indicate that Pitt’s heartthrob status has slipped drastically (London’s Mirror likened the beard to armpit hair), and some gossip columnists don’t even bother referring to him as a person anymore. Instead, they write headlines like “Brad Pitt’s Beard Arrives Home” (TMZ.com).

I don’t think it’s that bad, but perhaps I just have poor taste. I’m also a fan of Robert Pattinson’s new beard, which is as unruly as Pitt’s and makes the Twilight star look a lot older and more menacing. A therapist would probably accuse Pattinson of subconsciously trying to escape the limelight, or, at the very least, trying to distance himself from Edward Cullen in his quest to become a more serious actor, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he grew the thing in the name of fashion alone. I don’t know if I could say the same for Joaquin Phoenix, who decided to get a little weird some months ago and became a Zach Galifianakis lookalike until his very recent resurfacing on YouTube. That was not a good look for Phoenix, and I was quite happy to see him clean-shaven once again.

Other actors who have surprised us with beards include Shia Labeouf, Jake Gyllenhaal, and George Clooney (his beard is a reoccurring one, and I am always happy when it arrives). We can never predict who will be next – maybe Taylor Lautner, if he decides to follow in Pattinson’s footsteps, or Justin Bieber, when he’s old enough. Hot… or not? Only time will tell.


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