Opinion

The Bearded Gang Comes to Town

By Ifeoma Ezenyilimba, Chioma Ndife, Abuchi Onwumelu, Mercy Hill, Alexander Johnson Adejoh and Precious Ukeje, with additional reports from Jude Atupulazi.

Over time, a lot of young men and women have been known to engage in and adjust to a particular lifestyle in the name of fashion and trend. We have seen and heard so much about men wearing earrings, and even nose rings. We have also seen so many wearing drooping trousers, known as sagging, and exposing their underwear in public.

Now the trending fashion is growing and keeping long beards. You can call it the new fad in town and you will not be wrong. It is the era of long, sometimes, bushy beards by men, especially the younger generation.

There are all manner of this type of beards. Some are so long that the likes of Aristotle, the philosopher, and the men in biblical times, including the early Christian missionaries, would have envied them. Others are cropped low but still allowed to cover the better part of their faces.

It does not matter what class they belong to, but most young men have taken to this fad. From bankers, doctors and other professionals to students, the long beard revolution has taken root. It is like the longer the beard, the better.

Long beards had been popularized in the past by such famous personalities as the late Biafran leader, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, as well as former Cuban leader, Fidel Castro. In modern times many celebrities are popularizing it.
One of them is the boxer, Deontay Wilder.
Previously, keeping long beards was seen as old fashioned. It is no longer so now. In fact, it is those not spotting long beards that are today considered old fashioned. Indeed, to spot a beard today is to belong.

Even in very hot weather, a lot of people still spot long beards, despite the apparent discomfort. Now, what makes wearing long beards trendy? Are there health issues associated with such? Or are there any advantages? Fides went to town to find out the above from those spotting long beards.

At the Faculty of Arts, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, many lecturers there were seen spotting beards.

One of them, Dr. Chidiebere Obi, of the Department of Philosophy, said he started wearing beards to look more mature and handsome. He also said he was always comfortable with his beards on.

When asked if there was any health benefit inherent in wearing long beards, the university don said he was not aware, except that he wanted to appear differently.

For Hon. Chukwuzubelu Umeobi, a politician, he started wearing beards about six years ago after discovering its true sense of appeal and attractiveness. He said there was something unique about men that grew and wore beards, adding that it gave them a sense of appeal and honour.

He said he joined the beards gang because of the aesthetic side of it, even as he advised that for one to maintain that look, the beards must be well shaved, clean, and smooth.
As for Mr. Cyril Dozie Egbejiogu, a businessman, he developed the love for long beards owing to his hairy nature, pointing out that he was not into it because of fashion but, because of the satisfaction he derived from it.

For Mr. Somadina Ofoma, a businessman, and Mr. Tochukwu Okpala, a hotel manager, wearing beards has become part of them and gives them the confident look they want.
‘I started wearing beards because of my baby faced appearance. People see me as a small boy whereas I’m not. I started growing beards to appear more mature. Ever since I started wearing beards no one now addresses me as a small boy. I exude confidence with my beards on. I deal on suit as a businessman.
I know how people view, perceive, and react to my looks. I find myself embarrassed each time they address me as a small boy,’ Ofoma said.

To a young university undergraduate, Chubby Nwadi, long beards give him a distinct look which he likes. ‘I like it full, neat and very well-kept. I actually like grooming my beards full, tidy and neat, because, to me, it is good, stylish and a distinct identity,’ he said.

When asked if it was another way to save barbing salon expenses, Nwadi, who said his current long beard was a month old, disagreed. According to him, shaving beards is as inexpensive as making the hair.

‘Every guy should afford to cut his beard. If one wants to groom beards, he must make effort to keep it neat, tidy and full, as anything on the contrary, would make one look like a mad person,’ the young undergraduate said.

Another young guy with long beard, DJ and MC, Bukado, said he grew beards to keep his face free from after shave bumps and rashes, as such bumps irritated him. Beards, he said, gave him a different and distinct look.

Bukado however noted that grooming beards was the choice of an individual, He said beards when groomed by young men, should be neat, tidy and ‘youngy’, noting that it was not worth it for a young man to leave his beard unkempt.

Another young man in his late 20s or early 30s who did not want his name in print, said he chose to wear long beards so as to cover the after shave rashes that he used to have.
He however said he had grown to love the distinct look which the long beards gave him and had resolved to continue grooming the beards in line with the trending fashion, even when the rashes were no longer there.

Uchechukwu Ekuma, an ex-corps member who served at Kenneth Dike Memorial Secondary School, Awka, Anambra State, described beards as trendy.
The ex-corps member however, disclosed that the major challenge associated with keeping beards was maintenance, noting that an unkempt beard was more irritating than anything.
Touching the thick, smooth hair on his cheeks, Ekuma grinned and said in Pidgin English, ‘Now na only money to dey maintain am be my major issue.’

In a related phone interview with an award winning artiste from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State, Taiwo Ayobami noted that they (People who keep beards) had a fancy name for themselves, ‘beard gang’.

Ayobami, an ex-corps member from Ekiti State, however said it was not always like that before.
‘In the recent past in Nigeria, most men were generally clean-shaven. Those who kept long, bushy beards often thought of themselves as revolutionaries and an unkempt beard was a mark of protest,’ he added.

Similarly, a member of the bearded gang from Abuja, Emmanuel Odey, told Fides that beards were a gift from God, and as such he was delighted in keeping them. He said not everyone was blessed to have one.

In a bid to discover what ladies think about keeping beards, Alebiosu Adejumoke, a fashion designer in Awka, told Fides that she believed that beards enhanced men’s looks.
‘I prefer bearded guys. My reason is that beards make them good-looking, and it gives them some sense of maturity. That is why I think guys need to keep beards,’ Alebiosu said.

Peculiar Elohor agreed with Alebiosu, saying that men without beards looked like babies. ‘Men that don’t have beards look like children; like they have not yet matured,’ the hair stylist told Fides, further pointing out that beards made them look smarter and young.

Ene Ola, a Kaduna based sociologist, said she had observed the trend and would not mind beards. She however expressed concerns about the hygiene of its keepers.
‘Having beards as a guy is not bad at all as long as it can be kept clean and germs-free.

Someone said guys with beards are more prone to germs than dogs. When you see guys with clean and well-shaven beards, they are always cuter than guys without beards,’ Ola disclosed.
A Psychologist, Innocent Solomon, who works with the Psychiatric Hospital, Nawfia, Njikoka LGA, told Fides that about 70 per cent of people, both men and women, simply did not care whether one wore a beard or not, noting that it did not substantially affect their impression of anyone.

Solomon further disclosed that he was in talks with many bearded men who informed him of their decision to have their beards shaved for fear of contracting coronavirus.
Speaking to Fides on the reason why he grew beards, an Awka Diocesan priest and a lecturer in the Department of Religion, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Fr. Chika Okpalike, said he kept beards due to the unique look it gave him, as well as to mark himself out as a priest from the crowd.

‘I keep beards because I want to look different and see the world from my own perspective. I’m not someone who gives in to popular opinion or accept things commonly done by everyone. I want to create my own world and engineer that world myself,’ said Fr. Okpalike who had kept beards for the past 25 years.

‘So, part of why I keep my beards is to look different and to showcase that difference I can make in the world. I started keeping beards 25 years ago; that was before it became trendy among young guys.

‘When I started leaving my beards it wasn’t fashionable. People were seeing it then as weird. They didn’t like it and my whole reason is because I want to be different and distinguished from others. It has become my brand and I can’t run away from it because it has become fashionable. I never kept it for fashion. I have had this for the past 25 years. And by the way, I am a priest and it was unthinkable to keep beards then, but when I started leaving my beards, I stumbled into this idea that beards matched one out as a priest,’ he said.

‘From my idea right from time, beard is to separate oneself and I came to find out that in the olden days, the priests, holy people that included the dibias, also kept beards to mark themselves out from the crowd.

‘Today it has become fashionable but it doesn’t nullify anything about my idea of having beards because fashion is dynamic, fashion is about change, so it’s okay because I know that someday, it wouldn’t be fashionable again but it doesn’t remove its symbolic meaning from old,’ he stated.

Also speaking, Fides Media machine operator, Mr. Izuchukwu Muodozie, said it would not be masculine for him to appear without a beard, saying that beards gave him the mature look he needed and for placement in his proper age category.
Medical Angle

Contributing, a medical doctor and the Executive Secretary, Anambra State Health Insurance Agency (ASHIA), Dr. Simeon Onyemaechi, who goes without beards, said not wearing beards, for him, was to maintain the youthful look he had after shaving and to save the time required in trimming beards during its grooming.

He further explained that the tendency for micro-organisms to grow in hairy areas of the body was high, noting that the degree of micro-organisms in beards differed in individuals based on the hygiene level of those concerned.

Disclosing the medical reasons why some individuals kept beards, a general medical practitioner at the Children’s and Orthopedic Hospital, Awka, Dr. Collins Chieze, noted that some people were allergic to skin cuts, saying that such skin conditions brought about bumps whenever there was a skin cut. He said that such persons preferred keeping beards.

‘When there is a skin cut, there is mostly an exposure of the skin to the atmosphere and people are mostly allergic to that. In such scenario, there will be an inflammatory reaction that will induce bumps.

‘There are some people who are called Keloid formats. Keloid formats are those whose wounds heal with an outgrowth. So such people are not allowed to have a total skin cut because whenever a blade goes across their skin and leaves a little injury, it heals but however leaves a keloid scar and keloid scar sometimes overgrows.

‘Keloid formats are genetical. Once they have any cut across their neck, jaw or at the back of their head, the cuts, instead of healing normally like normal wounds, will leave a tumor; so such people don’t go for clean skin cut so as to eliminate the outgrowth of keloid,’ he said.
The medical doctor said some others kept beards because when they shaved completely it scratched them and produced bumps in the process.

He said such scratches could be linked to the irritation on the skin environment whenever hair was about to grow out from a clean shaved skin.
‘This irritation induces inflammatory reactions which would be felt as an itch before the appearance of bumps,’ he said.

Dr. Chieze maintained that the prevention of water from getting to the jaw of the skin due to beards could also lead to scratches which produced bumps, saying that some fungal organisms which lived in the hairs could induce an inflammatory reaction.

He further explained that beards exposed one to extreme heat whenever the weather was hot as the jaw of the person would get soaked in sweat.
He said beards were totally unacceptable during surgeries as incisions could never be made with hairs.

‘This is because micro-organisms live in the hair and it is believed that if hairs are there while one makes an incision, it will lead to the infection of the entire body environment, but if there is no surgery, there is no way micro-organisms can move into the body system through the beards’ he stated.

But whatever explanations that may be given as to the advantages or otherwise of wearing beards, the trend does not look like it is going to end soon.

Over time, a lot of young men and women have been known to engage in and adjust to a particular lifestyle in the name of fashion and trend. We have seen and heard so much about men wearing earrings, and even nose rings. We have also seen so many wearing drooping trousers, known as sagging, and exposing their underwear in public.

Now the trending fashion is growing and keeping long beards. You can call it the new fad in town and you will not be wrong. It is the era of long, sometimes, bushy beards by men, especially the younger generation. There are all manner of this type of beards. Some are so long that the likes of Aristotle, the philosopher, and the men in biblical times, including the early Christian missionaries, would have envied them. Others are cropped low but still allowed to cover the better part of their faces.

It does not matter what class they belong to, but most young men have taken to this fad. From bankers, doctors and other professionals to students, the long beard revolution has taken root. It is like the longer the beard, the better.

Long beards had been popularized in the past by such famous personalities as the late Biafran leader, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, as well as former Cuban leader, Fidel Castro. In modern times many celebrities are popularizing it. One of them is the boxer, Deontay Wilder.
Previously, keeping long beards was seen as old fashioned. It is no longer so now. In fact, it is those not spotting long beards that are today considered old fashioned. Indeed, to spot a beard today is to belong.

Even in very hot weather, a lot of people still spot long beards, despite the apparent discomfort. Now, what makes wearing long beards trendy? Are there health issues associated with such? Or are there any advantages? Fides went to town to find out the above from those spotting long beards.

At the Faculty of Arts, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, many lecturers there were seen spotting beards.
One of them, Dr. Chidiebere Obi, of the Department of Philosophy, said he started wearing beards to look more mature and handsome. He also said he was always comfortable with his beards on.

When asked if there was any health benefit inherent in wearing long beards, the university don said he was not aware, except that he wanted to appear differently.
For Hon. Chukwuzubelu Umeobi, a politician, he started wearing beards about six years ago after discovering its true sense of appeal and attractiveness. He said there was something unique about men that grew and wore beards, adding that it gave them a sense of appeal and honour.

He said he joined the beards gang because of the aesthetic side of it, even as he advised that for one to maintain that look, the beards must be well shaved, clean, and smooth.
As for Mr. Cyril Dozie Egbejiogu, a businessman, he developed the love for long beards owing to his hairy nature, pointing out that he was not into it because of fashion but, because of the satisfaction he derived from it.

For Mr. Somadina Ofoma, a businessman, and Mr. Tochukwu Okpala, a hotel manager, wearing beards has become part of them and gives them the confident look they want.
‘I started wearing beards because of my baby faced appearance. People see me as a small boy whereas I’m not. I started growing beards to appear more mature. Ever since I started wearing beards no one now addresses me as a small boy.

I exude confidence with my beards on. I deal on suit as a businessman. I know how people view, perceive, and react to my looks. I find myself embarrassed each time they address me as a small boy,’ Ofoma said.
To a young university undergraduate, Chubby Nwadi, long beards give him a distinct look which he likes. ‘I like it full, neat and very well-kept. I actually like grooming my beards full, tidy and neat, because, to me, it is good, stylish and a distinct identity,’ he said.

When asked if it was another way to save barbing salon expenses, Nwadi, who said his current long beard was a month old, disagreed. According to him, shaving beards is as inexpensive as making the hair.
‘Every guy should afford to cut his beard. If one wants to groom beards, he must make effort to keep it neat, tidy and full, as anything on the contrary, would make one look like a mad person,’ the young undergraduate said.

Another young guy with long beard, DJ and MC, Bukado, said he grew beards to keep his face free from after shave bumps and rashes, as such bumps irritated him. Beards, he said, gave him a different and distinct look.

Bukado however noted that grooming beards was the choice of an individual, He said beards when groomed by young men, should be neat, tidy and ‘youngy’, noting that it was not worth it for a young man to leave his beard unkempt.

Another young man in his late 20s or early 30s who did not want his name in print, said he chose to wear long beards so as to cover the after shave rashes that he used to have.
He however said he had grown to love the distinct look which the long beards gave him and had resolved to continue grooming the beards in line with the trending fashion, even when the rashes were no longer there.

Uchechukwu Ekuma, an ex-corps member who served at Kenneth Dike Memorial Secondary School, Awka, Anambra State, described beards as trendy.

The ex-corps member however, disclosed that the major challenge associated with keeping beards was maintenance, noting that an unkempt beard was more irritating than anything.
Touching the thick, smooth hair on his cheeks, Ekuma grinned and said in Pidgin English, ‘Now na only money to dey maintain am be my major issue.’

In a related phone interview with an award winning artiste from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State, Taiwo Ayobami noted that they (People who keep beards) had a fancy name for themselves, ‘beard gang’.
Ayobami, an ex-corps member from Ekiti State, however said it was not always like that before.

‘In the recent past in Nigeria, most men were generally clean-shaven. Those who kept long, bushy beards often thought of themselves as revolutionaries and an unkempt beard was a mark of protest,’ he added.

Similarly, a member of the bearded gang from Abuja, Emmanuel Odey, told Fides that beards were a gift from God, and as such he was delighted in keeping them. He said not everyone was blessed to have one.

In a bid to discover what ladies think about keeping beards, Alebiosu Adejumoke, a fashion designer in Awka, told Fides that she believed that beards enhanced men’s looks.
‘I prefer bearded guys. My reason is that beards make them good-looking, and it gives them some sense of maturity. That is why I think guys need to keep beards,’ Alebiosu said.

Peculiar Elohor agreed with Alebiosu, saying that men without beards looked like babies. ‘Men that don’t have beards look like children; like they have not yet matured,’ the hair stylist told Fides, further pointing out that beards made them look smarter and young.

Ene Ola, a Kaduna based sociologist, said she had observed the trend and would not mind beards. She however expressed concerns about the hygiene of its keepers.
‘Having beards as a guy is not bad at all as long as it can be kept clean and germs-free. Someone said guys with beards are more prone to germs than dogs. When you see guys with clean and well-shaven beards, they are always cuter than guys without beards,’ Ola disclosed.

A Psychologist, Innocent Solomon, who works with the Psychiatric Hospital, Nawfia, Njikoka LGA, told Fides that about 70 per cent of people, both men and women, simply did not care whether one wore a beard or not, noting that it did not substantially affect their impression of anyone.

Solomon further disclosed that he was in talks with many bearded men who informed him of their decision to have their beards shaved for fear of contracting coronavirus.
Speaking to Fides on the reason why he grew beards, an Awka Diocesan priest and a lecturer in the Department of Religion, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Fr. Chika Okpalike, said he kept beards due to the unique look it gave him, as well as to mark himself out as a priest from the crowd.

‘I keep beards because I want to look different and see the world from my own perspective. I’m not someone who gives in to popular opinion or accept things commonly done by everyone. I want to create my own world and engineer that world myself,’ said Fr. Okpalike who had kept beards for the past 25 years.

‘So, part of why I keep my beards is to look different and to showcase that difference I can make in the world. I started keeping beards 25 years ago; that was before it became trendy among young guys.

‘When I started leaving my beards it wasn’t fashionable. People were seeing it then as weird. They didn’t like it and my whole reason is because I want to be different and distinguished from others. It has become my brand and I can’t run away from it because it has become fashionable. I never kept it for fashion.
I have had this for the past 25 years. And by the way, I am a priest and it was unthinkable to keep beards then, but when I started leaving my beards, I stumbled into this idea that beards matched one out as a priest,’ he said.

‘From my idea right from time, beard is to separate oneself and I came to find out that in the olden days, the priests, holy people that included the dibias, also kept beards to mark themselves out from the crowd.

‘Today it has become fashionable but it doesn’t nullify anything about my idea of having beards because fashion is dynamic, fashion is about change, so it’s okay because I know that someday, it wouldn’t be fashionable again but it doesn’t remove its symbolic meaning from old,’ he stated.

Also speaking, Fides Media machine operator, Mr. Izuchukwu Muodozie, said it would not be masculine for him to appear without a beard, saying that beards gave him the mature look he needed and for placement in his proper age category.

Medical Angle
Contributing, a medical doctor and the Executive Secretary, Anambra State Health Insurance Agency (ASHIA), Dr. Simeon Onyemaechi, who goes without beards, said not wearing beards, for him, was to maintain the youthful look he had after shaving and to save the time required in trimming beards during its grooming.

He further explained that the tendency for micro-organisms to grow in hairy areas of the body was high, noting that the degree of micro-organisms in beards differed in individuals based on the hygiene level of those concerned.

Disclosing the medical reasons why some individuals kept beards, a general medical practitioner at the Children’s and Orthopedic Hospital, Awka, Dr. Collins Chieze, noted that some people were allergic to skin cuts, saying that such skin conditions brought about bumps whenever there was a skin cut. He said that such persons preferred keeping beards.

‘When there is a skin cut, there is mostly an exposure of the skin to the atmosphere and people are mostly allergic to that. In such scenario, there will be an inflammatory reaction that will induce bumps.

‘There are some people who are called Keloid formats. Keloid formats are those whose wounds heal with an outgrowth. So such people are not allowed to have a total skin cut because whenever a blade goes across their skin and leaves a little injury, it heals but however leaves a keloid scar and keloid scar sometimes overgrows.

‘Keloid formats are genetical. Once they have any cut across their neck, jaw or at the back of their head, the cuts, instead of healing normally like normal wounds, will leave a tumor; so such people don’t go for clean skin cut so as to eliminate the outgrowth of keloid,’ he said.
The medical doctor said some others kept beards because when they shaved completely it scratched them and produced bumps in the process.

He said such scratches could be linked to the irritation on the skin environment whenever hair was about to grow out from a clean shaved skin.
‘This irritation induces inflammatory reactions which would be felt as an itch before the appearance of bumps,’ he said.

Dr. Chieze maintained that the prevention of water from getting to the jaw of the skin due to beards could also lead to scratches which produced bumps, saying that some fungal organisms which lived in the hairs could induce an inflammatory reaction.

He further explained that beards exposed one to extreme heat whenever the weather was hot as the jaw of the person would get soaked in sweat.

He said beards were totally unacceptable during surgeries as incisions could never be made with hairs.

‘This is because micro-organisms live in the hair and it is believed that if hairs are there while one makes an incision, it will lead to the infection of the entire body environment, but if there is no surgery, there is no way micro-organisms can move into the body system through the beards’ he stated.

But whatever explanations that may be given as to the advantages or otherwise of wearing beards, the trend does not look like it is going to end soon.

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