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When I type the word “neard” into Google, it assumes I have made a spelling error. When I texted one of my group chats, “how does this group feel about neards??” the first person to respond said, “I love nerds rope soooo much.” These misunderstandings have lead me to conclude that sharing my theory–that 2020 is destined to be “The Year of the Neard”–might be slightly premature. Nevertheless, as a journalist and a cultural scholar, I feel duty-bound to press onward with my corresponding investigation.
For the uninitiated, a neard–according to Urban Dictionary–is “a growth of facial hair which is intentionally concentrated BELOW the neckline, a portmanteau of Neck and bEARD. Usually very scraggled and harsh-looking until it gets some body.” Given the relaxed hair-grooming standards of quarantine, it is my observation that neards are becoming ubiquitous.
Where it once may have been common for those in possession of facial hair to keep things neat and trim, the aesthetic of the past two months has trended in the opposite direction, and what used to simply be a beard has now morphed into a neard. My point is that facial hair is currently being permitted to roam free at–dare I say it?–unprecedented levels.
me with all this quarantine beard growth… pic.twitter.com/6alYNgTIeu
— Natty (@Nathanael_FM) May 14, 2020
Beyond my anecdotal observations of this phenomenon on the face of the person I’ve sworn to make out with forever, I also bore witness to it on various Zoom calls with friends, not to mention social media at large. It’s even becoming an A-list movement: LeBron James compared his appearance to Tom Hanks in Castaway. Will Smith captioned a recent Instagram post, “Who else lettin’ their beard grow out?!” Jim Carrey launched the hashtag #letsgrowtogether, imploring his followers to join him in conquering “the uncutting edge.”
During a recent Office Hour on MR Thoughtline, I asked people to share their thoughts on quarantine neards, whether they happen to possess one themselves or love someone (a friend, brother, significant other) who does. Responses were varied in nature but united in passion:
“Neards are hot and I wish I had a nearded person to cuddle with during quarantine.”
“I want my mans to be mistaken for a yeti in the mountains. So yes pro neard!”
“If I wanted to hug and kiss someone with a neck full of hair, I’d get a dog.”
“If you can grow one, grow one. It’s basic virility. Like… the basic law of attraction.”
“No body hair shame, but neards are hairsona-non grata in my book!”
“Noah Centineo’s neard is not it. But Beck Bennet’s neard… definitely passes the vibe check.”
“I’m not sure about neards, but I have noticed that the few wayward beard hairs I’ve gotten with hormonal shifts don’t worry me much in quarantine. I have one an inch long right now that I just glance at in the mirror and keep it moving. I’m even excited to see a gray one pop out any day now.”
“No!!!! I can’t wait to see that beautiful bone structure on men’s faces again.”
“I love love love them. It’s the one good thing to come out of quarantine.”
“I am very into the neard and my boyfriend does in fact have one right now. Silver linings.”
Personally, the longer I’ve been in quarantine, the more neards have grown on me (pun intended). As conversations persist about what quarantine-induced adjustments will remain part of our lives even once social distancing protocols ease, I can’t help but hypothesize that neards–or rather, any form of facial hair in its most abundant, expressive glory–will be one of them. What say you? Are neards the new black?
Feature Image Via Getty Images.