Pity the poor hipster.
While you’re at it, also pity a lot of guys in religious sects, like Hasidic Jews and Sikhs, as well as a subset of average American guys who feel the need for a bushy beard but just can’t grow a good one. Like women who want big breasts, these men are desperate. And just like those women, these men, too, are willing to consider implants.
Beard implants. The bigger the better. (What else is new?)
“Beards are huge,” says Keri Brunskill, co-founder of Big Red Beard Combs. “Male models are popping up who are specifically ‘beard models.’ We’re idolizing these men.”
We are? Perhaps so. From Brad Pitt to “Duck Dynasty,” we do seem to be experiencing a Smith Brothers moment. Did you watch the Oscars? More beards there than in J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI!
So now, in addition to downloading beard grooming videos, gulping beard vitamins and scooping up the main items Brunskill’s company sells -- high-end wooden beard combs and beard oil -- some men are going the next step and seeing the surgeon.
“We take out individual (scalp) hair follicles and actually inject them into the areas on the face that don’t have hair,” says Dr. Gary Hitzig, former medical director of the American Hair Loss Council and author of the book “Help & Hope for Hair Loss.” With offices in New York and Scandinavia, he does 30 to 50 beard implants a year. “The idea of it came about a long time ago, but the technology to do it well has only been around for four or five years.”
Generally, Hitzig doesn’t create an entire beard but fills in hairless patches caused by scars or alopecia, a condition that can leave hair-barren spots that are usually about the size of a half dollar. His clients are a cross section of men, but for a while, he was doing a lot of Hassidim. One of them brought along a minyan -- a group of 10 other religious men -- to pray for him while he got his implant. Why was a beard that important?
“Apparently, for them to make it as top rabbis, beards were very important,” says Hitzig. Demand from the sect he was seeing peaked in the 1990s. And now that the cosmetic industry has developed a stick-on beard patch that can stay on for up to two weeks at a time (imagine a round, hairy Band-Aid), some clients are choosing that instead.
But then there are the guys who want the real thing.
Well, the real implant.
“My brother, my dad, everybody was able to grow a beard at age 14, and I was 27 and I didn’t think it was ever going to grow,” says Armando Garcia, a grad student in Florida. But Googling around, he found Dr. Jeffrey Epstein, a Miami-based plastic surgeon and beard implanter.
“It was nothing like I thought it would be. I got there about 8 in the morning, and it took about 10 hours,” says Garcia. “But the whole procedure was pretty painless.”
Six months and $13,000 later, the beard filled in and he became the man he is today -- 28, hairy and happy. The only person who noticed something strange going on was his barber. “He said, ‘Every week you come, your beard is thicker and thicker.’”
Pirooz Sarshar, a men’s grooming expert in New York City who teaches guys how to do things such as moisturize and shave, sees the beard implant trend continuing to grow. He’s willing to help anyone with a beard learn to style (and wash!) it. But for him, personally, clean-shaven is the way to go.
“I was born in the Middle East and left due to political reasons, so the concept of an authority figure with a long beard is a pretty scary thing,” says Sarshar. “I grew up going, ‘Wow, how do I NOT look like that?’”
It’s easy: Smile and shave, boys. And avoid the beard implanters.