When did guys start growing beards again? And where did this start?

If you look at newspaper and magazine articles, they credit George Clooney, soccer stars, and hipsters with the craze for beards.

But this is wrong: I remember noticing the widespread appearance of beards in Nashville in 2009. I asked people, what’s up with the beards? But my friends are middle-class and upper-class professionals, and they looked around and said “what beards?” They didn’t wear beards.

It was the working class guys who had rough beards. As time went by, more and more working class guys had beards. Finally, it started showing up in the college-educated classes, and somewhere in 2012, it exploded. By late 2013 and early 2014, it seemed everyone everywhere had a beard.

A few days ago, while discussing lots of things, we talked about this. I repeated what I saw in Nashville. But everyone said it was a San Francisco and Brooklyn thing and the working classes copied the upper classes.

So I looked into this. When did the beard craze start? Where did it start?

One way to do this is to use Google Trends. You can see patterns for searches.

Here’s the trends for the search term <beards> from January 2004 to present (August 2014), ten years.

The search trend for beards 2004-2012

The search trend for beards 2004-2014

 

 

 

 

 

You can see the gradual increase, with sharp spike in 2013, which peaked in October 2013. You can see it collapsed after that, so the trend is definitely over.

To get a better view of the beginnings, I removed 2013. You can now see more details in the preceding years.

 

Search trend at Google for beards, Jan 2004 to Feb. 2017

Interesting! In the last five years, you can see what we call “seasonality”; there’s a clear seasonal trend to the searches. Few searches in August (it’s hot and few will have a beard) and a spike in October (colder weather, so they start to grow beards for winter).

And that cycle continues each year until 2007, when it spikes for October… and it doesn’t drop. The beard fad started in October-December, 2007.

Google also reports the location for searches.

beards-city

The search trend for beards by city.

 

 

 

 

 

Yep, it’s a Southern thing. If you look at the trend, it started in Texas and spread to the South. In the map above, Kentucky is the hot spot. The list at right shows Arkansas, Kentucky, West Virginia, Oregon, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Oklahoma. No hipsters in those states.

So why would Southern guys be wearing beards in 2007?

Here’s my guess. Southern guys also tend to be US Army guys. They go in the military, do a few years, and come back to civilian life.

So where were these guys for several years before 2007? In Iraq and Afghanistan, where the Islamic Jihad wears beards. Southerners picked this up from Islam. If you watch documentaries or look at photos from that time, the US soldiers have beards.

This is actually pretty common. A defeated army often picks up behaviors from victors. Can’t beat ’em, join ’em. The Japanese picked up baseball from the US Navy and the US Marines; Germans picked up rock and roll from the US Army. This has happened, over and over, in wars throughout the centuries.

So it’s not SF and Brooklyn hipsters who started beards. It’s the Taliban.