28 November 2015
Friends’ Meeting House, Euston Road, London
|Panel One: Representations of Facial Hair on Canvas and Screen
|Maria Victoria Alonso
Beardless Young Men? Some Notes on the Visual Representation of Masculinity in Nineteenth-century Young Spanish Artists
The increased custom of growing beard and moustache became a topic of public interest in Nineteenth-century Europe. In Spain, the old custom of these as an exclusive military attribute was replaced by the impositions of masculine fashion. Public discussions about this habit through press articles focused on facial hair as a matter of adult men, relating to an archetype of masculinity and virile virtues. Adolescent and young men, considered as “hombres sin pelo de barba” (men without a hair of beard), and so as inexperienced and immature, though excluded from the main discourse, were also highly sensible to this new visual code. The possibility for the existence of a visual representation in painting of this “conquest of the beard” in young men is our starting hypothesis. The analysis of the specific iconography of self-portrait and artist’s portraits, restricted to adolescent and young Nineteen-Century Spanish artists, shows an underlying intention in the representation of beardless teenagers, sometimes related to the ideal of artistic precocity. However, since the middle twenties some young artists start a new trend in self-representation showing moustaches and beards as a personal appropriation of fashion codes, but also influenced by a wish of showing themselves older and with a more masculine appearance. In this paper we’ll try to analyze the circumstances where facial hair (fuzz, moustache, beard or goatee) in young artists could be related to specific male experiences, such as leaving the paternal home, the army and/or militar service, or even marriage and the establishment of his own family, in order to shape a first approximation to Spanish young-artists’ ideals of masculinity.
The Moustache as Masculinity’s Moral Signifier in Screen Media
My paper will use three moustachioed characters from different types and periods of late-capitalist screen artefact – Begbie (Trainspotting, 1996), Craven (the ‘Red Riding’ TV film serial, 2009, set in the 1970s), and Mendez (the TV series Orange Is The New Black, 2013 to present) – as test cases to explore the moustache’s semiotic function in film and television as a visual locus of certain kinds of sexuality, criminality, class, cultural capital and temporality, whose meanings have shifted in recent decades. The moustachioed semi-comic villain is a longstanding pop-cultural stock figure, and, hyper-masculine sexualised aggression is a prominent entertainment trope from the ‘hard man’ of soaps to the morally ambiguous hero of gritty crime dramas. In addition, the 1970s has retrospectively been associated with crime entertainment, rape-cultural ‘creepy’ masculinity, and ‘bad taste’, a combination that the moustache has emblematised. This in turn was repurposed in late twentieth and early twenty-first century ironic and hipster uses that hinge on an excessive or transgressive male sexuality – e.g. in the styling of fashion photographer Terry Richardson or musician Har Mar Superstar. Using Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s concepts of homosociality and homosexual anxiety, and Adam Kotsko’s theorisation of constructions of ‘creepiness’ in screen artefacts, I will examine these texts’ presentation of masculine excess. These three characters are epitomised by violent libidinal anger, yet they are also figures of fun. Within the palette of each text’s available masculinities their extremity contrasts within other male characters, whose own moral failings appear diminished in comparison. The moustache in each instance is key to their extremity and yet also the way their violence is downplayed or rendered non-serious. The moustache is both the means of signalling immoral excess and shielding the perpetrator from its consequences: a visual emblem of hiding in plain sight.
Poirot’s Moustache: The cultural Language of Facial Hair in Fictional Characters.
From Poirot’s Moustache to Homer Simpson’s perpetual 5 o’clock shadow, facial hair can be a useful tool in a story teller’s arsenal. Whether it’s indicating wealth, status, culture or state of mind, it can be a very personal visual shorthand for the narrative’s consumer. Some fictional facial hair personifies a character so effectively it seems to acquire a celebrity independent of the wearer. My paper looks at how we use facial hair in the portrayal of narrative stereotypes and how cultural shifts are changing these popular tropes. I also look at the experience of performers who use the transformative power of false facial hair and how they feel it differs from other costume elements, as it’s a facsimile of their own body.
|Panel Two: Self-fashioning and Identity
Bearded Bawds and the Economics of Female Masculinity in Early Modern London.
This paper explores the relationship between beards and female masculinity in seventeenth-century England through readings of bearded bawd figures in popular texts. I contend that in addition to drawing on conventional associations of female beards with ugliness and age—especially the humoral effects of menopause—the bawd represented a specific case of gender deviance through her interventions into the patriarchal marriage market: her usurpation of masculine economic power, and direct role in the sexual initiation (and subsequently decreased marital value) of young women. After the Restoration, the bawds of popular imagination became uniquely female figures who assumed all moral responsibility for prostitution, enabling the rise and eighteenth-century dominance of the ‘sentimental whore’. The beards that sprout from the chins of bawd figures in texts such as The Whores Rhetorick (1683) and Thomas Duffet’s The Empress of Morocco (1674) should therefore be read alongside the better known liquid excrements of grotesque female bodies as shameful manifestations of female economic expression.
Facial Hair and Liminal Masculinities on the Early Modern Stage
This paper considers how interstitial or liminal masculinities are signified on-stage through facial hair during the early modern period. While Will Fisher and Mark Albert Johnston have demonstrated that beards mark manhood in the early modern period, playwrights are also concerned with representations of masculinity beyond the perfect male described in the conduct manuals and medical tracts of the era. Males that challenge the prevailing ideology that equates manliness with beardedness are often located in the interstices of masculinity, most notably in the phase between boyhood and manhood. Frequently in the plays of 1600s, incomplete facial hair is a means through which writers mark out resistance to an idealised masculinity, and such subversion of patriarchal precepts might be expressed through such characters as the gallant, the youth, and the lover. At the other end of the scale, hirsuteness can be used to denote those who present a challenge to masculine reason and temperance, for instance the bushy-bearded soldier whose hyper-hairiness signifies both his incivility and choleric complexion in need of balancing before he can achieve the equilibrium of Man-age. Through a consideration of a number of masculine types drawn from a broad range of plays, I will demonstrate how the problematized facial hair of particular groups of men on the early modern stage is used to signify those males who have overshot or undershot manhood. I will also suggest that the prevalence of malleable facial hair and artificial beards on the stage undermine the very premise of the idealised masculinity upon which such subversions rest.
Speaking Through His Beard: Facial Hair as Selfnarrative in the case of Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (1778-1852)
In his career as educator, national activist and gymnast, Jahn was deeply concerned with history and memory, and particularly with their physical and social manifestations. The gymnastics movement he founded has been called a ‘national memorial cult’ (Chris Clark), a way of inscribing the nationalist, liberal memory of the Napoleonic Wars in the bodies of young men. It has not yet been recognised, however, that – particularly in the years following his political muzzling in 1819 – he inscribed that same memory in his own body, performing history and identity (both his, and Germany’s) through his appearance. The most remarkable feature of that appearance was his long, rather wild white beard, which Jahn used to signal his alienation from the times in which he lived. Referencing a proverbial watchman character called ‘Loyal Eckart’, he staged himself as the embodiment of the German national past, a Cassandralike figure who refused to assimilate to the dominant culture of Restoration Germany in either dress or facial hair. His unusual beard influenced features prominently in all subsequent representations of Jahn, both visual and verbal, and, I would argue, is a factor in his frequent dismissal by serious historians as a ‘crank’. My contention is that Jahn, by staging himself in a certain way, was deliberately attempting to curate his own posthumous memory, but that misreadings of that appearance and the field of reference in which it operated have led to an inaccurate assessment of his character and historical significance. Reading his beard correctly can correct our judgement of both the man and his achievements.
|Panel Three: External Influences on Facial Hair Fashion
Italian Beards and the Horizons of Violence around 1500
This presentation rethinks the reasons behind the rise of beards in Italy at the turn of the sixteenth century. In recent years, scholars have ventured to explain the shift in various ways. Elliott Horowitz has linked the trend to European reactions to the beardlessness of Indigenous peoples in the wake of the trans-Atlantic voyages (1492); Loren Partridge and Randolph Starn credit Pope Julius II (r. 1503-13) with popularizing the beard; Douglas Biow has proposed the Italian Wars (beginning in 1494) as a catalyst for a revised vision of masculine display. Most profoundly, Jean-Marie Le Gall has traced the multivalent politics of facial hair as a tool to negotiate masculine power. This paper departs from these conclusions to examine the way that beards could not only construct a certain kind of virility but could also express a set of political values. Fifteenth-century princes were almost all clean-shaven. But by 1500, the recovery of antique political and visual culture positioned facial hair in new ways that could modify the performance of elite male authority, as did contemporary Germanic and Turkish models. Beards could embody seigniorial and military majesty, which in turn came with certain rights: to adjudicate, to bear weapons, and to exert violence over others. By contrast, to go without a beard was in some cases to conform to the political position of citizen or subject. To press on these distinctions, the paper explores the significance of legal prohibitions against beards in Italy around 1500. Using archival, narrative, and visual sources, this presentation seeks to understand changing male fashions in relation to power dynamics and to the politics of violence. It also will share the results of a database cataloguing beards in male portraiture of the Italian Renaissance.
Consuming Men: Masculinities and Shaving Advertisements
Late nineteenth and early twentieth-century England was marked by myriad social and cultural tensions, both domestic and imperial. Gender constructions and assumptions were destabilised, and identities could no longer be assumed. Women increasingly forced the re-evaluation of traditional spheres of experience, thereby challenging gendered access to urban space and roles in society. Increased and changing patterns of consumerism also threatened the boundaries between public and private, male and female space. Fragmentation not only of empire but of assumptions regarding gender and sexuality further contributed to anxieties regarding normative conceptions of masculinity. The pursuit of manliness, more than ever, required industry and competence, implicitly acknowledging the constructed nature of masculine identities. Society appeared to many to be in a state of transformation, and in response to these complex and often inconsistent pressures, a plurality of masculine identities proliferated in the media and visual culture. Consumer capitalism, one of the drivers of radical change, offered stabilising solutions as well. Consumerism and product marketing for shaving products, this paper argues, was one arena in which masculine identities could be constructed, negotiated and manipulated. So, counter to any ‘crisis of masculinity’, this proliferation of identities in fact contributed to the ongoing power of normative masculinity. Advertising for shaving products visually depicted masculinities that offered either validation of existing identities or new models for emulation. Masculinity was, through the incorporation of a plurality of identities responding to the perceived proliferation of inconsistent and contradictory threats, maintaining stability and power, even in a time of insecurity and flux.
Beard History as a Map of the Masculine Past
In my new book, Of Beards and Men: the Revealing History of Facial Hair, I argue that the history of beards is an useful index of changing concepts and practices of masculinity over time. The intent of this work is to offer a reasonably comprehensive survey of the main shifts in facial hair in Western culture since ancient times, and identify the cultural factors at play in these changes. In his review of my book, Nick Beauman of the Guardian expressed doubt about the essential premise that beard trends have any cultural meaning at all. This paper will present the case for the usefulness to the historian of studying facial hair (and discourses surrounding it), and discuss several of my primary conclusions that should prove helpful to researchers moving forward. The two most valuable observations concern firstly the relation of beards to formulas of “natural” manliness, and secondly, the manner in which contrasting hairstyles can serve to distinguish competing ideals of masculinity in a given society or era.
Dr Margaret Pelling
‘The head and front of my offending’: Barbers and Self-presentation in Early Modern England