THE story of the night at the Bafta awards, screened live on TV on Sunday, was not the success of Argo or even Les Mis.
It was, undeniably, the profusion of facial hair. I almost didn't recognise Stephen Fry at first, thanks to his rather splendid beard. At one stage he gave it a tweak and commented drily that he was "not the only actor who's here with a beard", thus reminding us of the sly double-meaning of "beard" in showbiz circles. George Clooney, another who clearly hadn't seen a razor in a while, later thanked Fry for "making it OK for leading men to have facial hair".
Elsewhere ... Sam Mendes was bearded, as was Hugh Jackman. Bradley Cooper, Joaquin Phoenix and Damian Lewis all sported beards or stubble. Ditto Javier Bardem, last seen caressing the thighs of Daniel Craig in Skyfall. The beard-moment of the night came at the climax, when Argo was named best film, and Clooney, together with fellow producer Grant Heslov, and Ben Affleck, the star and director, ambled up on to the stage to collect the statue. Yes, all bearded. It was a striking sight.
Over at the Grammy awards, the British band, Mumford & Sons, all resplendent in facial hair, accepted their award from Adele. Last night's game at Celtic Park featured the Italian Andrea Pirlo and his rugged beard. And, where the film world and top-level football have blazed a trail, The Herald has not been slow to follow. Several members of staff have adopted the manly, unshaven look, as evidenced by the byline photos of Tom Shields and Rab McNeil. I am thinking of joining their ranks, more out of laziness than anything else: shaving can get so boring when you have to do it every single morning.
Whether it's about self-expression, or laziness, or a fashionable trend, or some other reason, I have no idea. I know that not everyone appreciates a beard. It does have its drawbacks: itchy, and prone to trapping small, unsightly bits of food debris. One senior beard-wearing colleague says he used to shave it off every summer until he realised the number of double-chins that lay underneath. He has a point.
Stephen Fry, however, has whipped his beard off. As he tweeted yesterday: "Everyone being v nice about Baftas, for which I thank you. But beard gets more attention. As you can see I'm now bare-faced."
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