Monday, 16 May 2011

Beards and beards

Fantasy Bob understands that the World Beard and Moustache Championships are taking place in Trondheim Norway this week.  Serious sport - unlike F1, the Olympics and various other nonsenses that are presented to us.  Competitors will compete in 18 categories including the Wild West, Dali, FuManchu, Alaskan Whaler and Garibaldi styles. There is also the Full Beard Freestyle category which was won in 2005 and 2007 by Elmar Weisser who sculpted his beard into the shape of the Berlin's Brandenburg gate and London's Tower Bridge.

They've come to see
my beard not your chin
It is disappointing that the timing of this event during the season is a constraint on cricketers entering.  Although cricket is generally a bare-faced game, there have been some notable there are some signficant contributions to the history of facial hair in the pages of Wisden.

The most famous beard in cricket - and indeed probably in all sport - belongs to WG Grace, although, disappointingly, there is no evidence that he ever sculpted his beard into the shape of the Lords Pavilion. 

But, while the occasional moustache could be spotted, cricket in the golden age was  pretty much clean shaven and the thought of Bradman or Hobbs taking guard with any sort of stubble on their cheeks is unthinkable.  A chap with a beard or any unshaven growth was obviously a chap who would swing across the line or might even indulge in sledging.

In more modern times things have changed.  Nowadays there is a fashion for a 5 o'clock shadow among the England Test team which isn't really a beard but a sign of pseudo-macho-laziness-pretending-to-be-Australian.  Although FB himself doesn't generally shave on match days, he thinks he would if TV cameras were to examine his every move and expose him as a scruff bucket.

During the 1970-80s beards were more acceptable in wider society and cricket followed suit with many players bearded notably Botham and Border.   And the West Indians all had these wispy Bob Marley/Andy Roberts style beards. It was at this time that Gillette gave up their sponsorship of the game.  But these beards were clipped and couldn't be sculpted into a model of anything.

FB - makes a save
This was also Fantasy Bob's hirsute phase.  In the later 1970s FB was occupied in post-graduate studies at a well known institution of advanced learning in Thames Valley.  The word studies is used advisedly, since the objects of study were mainly female, sporty or the products of Wadsworth's Brewery (possibly all three). FB at that time had long flowing locks pouring from his follicles and was heavily bearded.  How this was deemed attractive to women must remain a nystery.  One of FB's many claims to fame was that he was starring goalkeeper for the all conquering college football team.   During an important cup final the crowd were inspired not only by FB's heroics between the sticks but also by his bearded hairiness.  They took the the chart topping success of Boney M to heart and whenever the ball neared FB continually chanted  Ra, Ra Rasputin and other lines from the classic disco track. FB remained one of the more celebrated bearded cricketers for several years after - until the demise of Boney M adn teh rise of the waters of Babylon, we lay down and shaved our beards.

******* Hick,
call that a ******* beard
More recently, many Pakistani players have presented splendid specimens.    Great beards have included those of Saaed Anwar, Mohammad Youssuf and Inzaman.  The efforts of David Boon in the best and biggest moustache category and Merv Hughes must also be acknowledged.  Hughes, a model of culture and sophistication in everything he did, actually got the handlebars and sideboards to connect at one time but found the wind resistance on his run up too much and geared down.

The greatest beard in world cricket today is without doubt that of S African Hashim Amla.  He can sculpt his beard into classic innings in all forms of the game.

Amla - another sculpted century
The special freestyle prize goes to former England captain Mike Brearley.  He usually went clean shaven, but purposefully grew a thick black beard for a three-test tour of Australia in 1979, ostensibly so that he could intimidate the opposition.  But those fiendish Aussies must have practiced hard against beards for they were unintimidated and England went down 3-0.

But the greatest bearded asset of all time to cricket must be Bill Frindall, MBE, TMS scorer from the dawns of time until his untimely death in 2009.  He could sculpt his beard into any statistic in cricket without looking up CricInfo and devised his own patent scoring system.   He was correctly known as the Bearded Wonder.  A national treasure.

The Bearded Wonder


  1. Interestingly, the only occasion when I have been motivated to grow a beard was during a Norwegian summer. The beard was as short as the summer,as it turned out. I trust FB had more success in the Follicle Challenge. Cursory mention might also be made of the 70s fashion, originating in Australia as far as I remember, of the Emiliano Zapata-style moustache. It seemed to be re rigueur for most of Ian Chappell's 1972 touring side as well as sundry other Aussies such as John Newcombe and was later adopted by Lech Walesa, followed by most of Poland.

  2. Many thanks. FB agrees that we are in a facial hair light period in evolution - for which he gives much thanks.