Beard boom or beard bust? Here's all the buzz on the fuzz in the Middle East!

Published August 27th, 2014 - 11:59 GMT

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beard
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Image 1 of 13: No shaving means no profits for razor companies. Designed by New Zealand agency Y&R, this Shick ad features three rugged men sporting literally “beastly” beards made of ferrets and rabbits. The in-your-face message: why hide your hotness under such a wild and unkempt fur?

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Image 1 of 13: Failing to incite mass-shaving, razor companies are pressing men to buy into enhanced grooming, encouraging regular trimming and facial hair upkeep. The subtext of the ad campaign is to manicure your mustaches before they turn feral. (No animals were harmed in the making of these digitally enhanced ads, Alhamdulillah!)

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Image 1 of 13: While beards have been trending hot for the past few years, Newton’s Third Law of Physics tells us that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Surely Shick’s pics bring on Newton’s law, inciting men with the only slogan possible: “Free Your Skin”!

Omar Borkan
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Image 1 of 13: In the Mideast however, the best beards are beautifully maintained. Iraqi model and sometimes poet Omar Borkan Al Gala was one of three men allegedly ousted from a festival in Saudi Arabia last year for being “too sexy”. His beard now splits its time between the USA and Dubai where its seductive qualities don’t breach local morality laws.

Ibrahim Tatlises
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Image 1 of 13: Can you find a photo of 62-year-old Kurdish crooner Ibrahim Tatlises (the Turkish Michael Bublé) where he’s not sporting his consistently fabulous mustache? He even rocks the ‘stache in hospital photos after surviving mysterious assassination attempts (likely connected to his support of Kurdish development projects in northern Iraq)

KıvancTatlıtug
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Image 1 of 13: Bearded Turk KıvançTatlıtuğ began as a model, winning titles for Best Model of Turkey & Best Model of the World in 2002 before moving to acting. From 2011 to 2013 he played Kuzey Tekinoğlu in the drama series Kuzey Güney. Tatlıtuğ provided the voice of the Ken doll for the Turkish-dubbed version of Toy Story 3 - sadly, Ken was cleanshaven!

Kenan İmirzalıoglu
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Image 1 of 13: Turkish soap stars strongly influence facial hairstyles, but actor Kenan İmirzalıoğlu keeps fans guessing with oft-changing looks spanning scattered stubble to full-on fur. Moving to movies, İmirzalıoğlu continued his chameleon stylings - you never know what amount of hair his face will feature in his feature films!

Daniel Davari
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Image 1 of 13: Iranian-Polish footballer Daniel Davari suited up to play on Iran’s 2014 FIFA World Cup squad, but never made an on-field appearance. Davari opted for a subtle stubble which let his cute dimples show through, making sure he sure looked good any time the cameras captured him sitting on the bench! Well played!

Zayn Malik
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Image 1 of 13: Break-up rumors swirl around X-Factor darlings “One Direction” who wrap up an intense world tour this week. Fans fear the performance-weary foursome will soon part ways - even Simon Cowell hints it may happen! 1D’s most-bearded member - Zayn Malik - looks best poised for a solo career that appeals to older fans. Could be the sexy bristles?

Qusai Khouli
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Image 1 of 13: Syrian actor Qusai Khouli had to defend his big old bush to his beard-hating fans when he grew one for his role in the sequel to Saraya Abdeen. Khouldi played Ismail the Magnificent, Khedive of Egypt and Sudan from 1863 to 1879, and maintained that "some people dislike the beard look, I must keep it... whether I like it or not”.

Abu Al Leef
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Image 1 of 13: Egyptian folk singer Nader Abu Al Leef loved his beard so much that he got divorced rather than shaving it off! Whilst ex-wife Ola Rami’s reasons for banishing the beard are unknown, we do know that Leef remarried this year to a relative and invited all of Egypt to his wedding! Mabrook Leef!

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Image 1 of 13: “Transplant tourism” is keeping cosmetic surgeons and medical tour agencies in Istanbul very busy dealing with an upsurge in beards and mustache “augmentation”. An agency that specialises in hair transplant tours estimates that at least 50 Arabs go to Istanbul every day for the procedure. Packages cost about $2,300, all-inclusive!

knitted beard
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Image 1 of 13: Can’t grow your own, but too squeamish for surgery? Then ask your teta to whip out her knitting needles and make you one like this. She’ll have you happily hirsute in an hour - and probably throw in the hat for free!

Beards are the backbone of recent men’s fashion, a fad many attribute to furry Hollywood film stars George Clooney, Ben Affleck, and Joaquin Phoenix. But trendspotters now warn of a bust in the beard boom - caused in part by a human phenomenon picked up as our species evolved.  It’s known as "negative frequency-dependent sexual selection", where we tend to want what we don’t see much of.  Ergo - in a sea of stubble - cleanshaven faces become more appealing. Beard-fans, are you bristling?

Researchers in Australia looked at the dynamics behind facial hair, observing a fashion trend climax (tagged as “peak beard”) at the moment it was adopted by guys not naturally linked with hairy mugs (think metrosexual film stars and sweaty athletes). These unshaved idols prompted fans to ditch their razors too. Seems beards tend towards faddishness.

After peaking, the stylistic pendulum will swing back toward close-shaved chins - which is what the Aussies propose is happening today. But this could be a West-centric occurrence.  What’s the buzz on fuzz in the Middle East?

In Arab and Muslim culture, facial hair is more than personal style. It can symbolize specific ethnicity and general manhood. It can be a local preference (Iraqis are big mustache fans - and we emphasize BIG). It can be politicized (in post-Hosni Mubarak Egypt, government employees were forbidden from growing beards. Now Egyptian facial hair is emblematic of free expression). Muslim Brotherhood members generally sport a facial “twinset” of well-groomed beard and moustache.

Finally, beards can signify religious belief.  Ultraconservative fundamentalists (Salafists, as example) lean towards long, untrimmed beards, often paired with a shaved upper lip in the centuries-old style of the Prophet Mohammed PBOH.

So what’s the view on Arabian whiskers?  Are you devotees of dramatic Dali ‘staches or heavy chin-curtains an Ayatollah would envy? Moved by manicured goatees or hipster mutton-chops? Where do you stand on modern facial hair? And - as importantly - let’s hear the woman's point of view!

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