The Basewood Beard: YEAR ONE

Sun 8/2/2009

Yesterday was August 1st, which means that I have officially been growing my beard (and hair) for ONE ENTIRE YEAR.

As of this blog entry, Chapter 3 of Basewood is 75.96% done. I have penciled the entire issue and I have 23 pages inked, as well as all of the covers and endpapers. I finally finished inking the insane snow pages and so it's going a lot faster now. I'm still hoping to have this chapter finished up by the end of September, which I'm on track to accomplish, if I can maintain my current progress rate.

Comics aside, it has been a pretty eye-opening experience growing out my beard and hair for the last twelve months. I have had family members, friends and total strangers make rude personal comments about my physical appearance, both directly to my face and behind my back. While walking down public streets, I have been heckled or mocked by small children, teenagers and even a few adults. I've had people completely ignore my existence as I try to ask for directions. One night in Washington D.C. a woman even crossed the street mid-block and continued on her way, ostensibly so that I would not ask her for change, or attack her. Everywhere I go, people glare at me disapprovingly.

Before I grew my beard out, I never experienced any of this hostility or unwarranted mistrust from other people. It is extremely interesting to watch people's reactions to my physical appearance, because under the beard, I am still the same old Alec. I have been lucky enough to have a generous amount of self-esteem for most of my life, so I have been able to easily shrug off most of the rudeness. But it is so sad to think how easily someone whose appearance doesn't fit into society's concept of "normal" would quickly start to feel awful about themselves, if they had to put up with this kind of abuse.

It's also just weird that growing one's beard out is seen as so crazy around these parts. After all, the fifth largest religion in the world (Sikhism) asks its followers to NEVER CUT THEIR HAIR, EVER. Depressingly, these days 80% of Sikh youth DO cut their hair, mostly to avoid discrimination in the workplace and in academia. That just seems crazy to me. It's just HAIR people!

It's pretty depressing (but not surprising) that our society is so shallow, superficial and obsessed with physical appearance. This experience has definitely made me more aware of my own prejudices, and I am trying to be less judgmental about the people I meet. It sounds corny and cliche, but it's really true: It's what's INSIDE that counts, you know?!

ANYWAY, I also realized yesterday that I had never posted my 24-hour comic from last year on this website. It was originally put together as a minicomic that went out to the Phase 7 subscribers, but now everyone can read it online. It details the thought process behind me cutting off all of my hair and growing out my beard, and it also talks a bit about leaving New York to come live in Vermont.

Well, the second round of workshops start up this week, so things will be hopping around CCS again, with a new batch of 32 students in town. It should be fun! And hopefully I can keep churning out some more pages... The sooner Basewood is done, the sooner I can shave off this beard!

26 comments on this entry

I'm actually surprised to hear all this. Maybe it's that I had a bearded dad and I've lived in Maine a lot, but I think you look pretty rad, actually.

i can totally understand. when i had my hair long and my beard long i used to get the dirty looks, too. it really doesn't help if you're hispanic and have piercings and tattoos on top of the hair, let me tell you! your ability to work hard has always been inspirational and i can't wait to see you reach your goal with BASEWOOD! then you can go back to looking "normal" and not being a pariah! :D

cat Aug02

I am just jealous... my facial hair is laughable at best, I am guessing my "beard" would be weak even if I tried growing it out for a whole year.

People are dumb man... common tale, sadly.

Alec, you look great with that beard, don't even think of shaving it ! it gives you the look of some crazy hippie guru comics artist :D

vincent degrez Aug03

Well the Bouncing Souls thought your beard commitment was awesome, and that you looked like Rick Rubin, and that's all that matters to me! hahaha...

One of the few things I don't envy about the male social experience is that sometimes if you look a certain way late at night, women will think you are a predator or some kind. No one's ever thought I was dangerous or crossed the street to get away from me, so I can't imagine what that must feel like. There's actually a really good and really eloquent Screeching Weasel song about that experience called "Going Home." You should listen to it!

Liz B. Aug03

My dad dressed as a beggar for an Roman-times-themed vacation bible school thing one time, and was "eye-opened" by not only how many kids ran up to hit him, or tease him, or throw things at him, but also at how the kids' parents seemed to regard this as okay and funny. And this was a vacation bible school.

People, as a rule, can suck. As you know, there are a lot of incredible, kind, wonderful people out there, but there are also a lot of unpleasant, superficial people as well.

I wouldn't hold it too much against the DC woman, though - it may not have been the beard at all, but simply your size and the fact that you're a dude. I'll cross if there are multiple males anywhere near my age walking towards me on a not-heavily-populated street; I simply don't want to allow myself to be in a position of strategic disadvantage should they turn out to be violent for some reason, and I suspect most women are even more susceptible to this kind of defensive thinking.

You know what would take care of everything? Go Sikh with your grooming. Yeah, there's crazy amounts of hair, but those guys are DAPPER. Get some clubman's moustache wax...

THIS WHOLE THING MAKES ME SAD!

CHANCE BOREN Aug04

Has anyone pointed out that you resemble a young Alan Moore?
In this picture especially.

ak47 Aug04

Sorry if this entry bummed some people out. I should also say that every once in a while I will get a "Nice BEARD!" comment from someone who approves of my current facial hair situation.

Chris - I don't blame the D.C. woman at all. I understand that I look scary right now. It's just weird to know that she probably WOULDN'T cross the street if I had one aspect of my physical appearance changed...

Chance - I'll try to make the next post less depressing!

Alec Aug04

I try to grow a beard once a month...
and fail every month

Stefan Aug05

has anyone said you look like Alan Moore?
heehee

However! I think you look way more scary all shaved up. :)
I DO get the whole thing i had dreads for years and would get a combo of comments from ALL types of people.
It just reminded me that people can SUCK. post what YOU want not WE want. :)
much love for your beard.... mine is so sad looking after a few months it looks like a sick cat stuck to my face.

Chance Aug06

Admittedly, I don’t have a great interest in comics. I only made my way here after seeing your pictures at Flickr with intent to congratulate you on the major milestone of going a year without shaving. At first I was surprised to hear that you were getting grief about the beard (especially after living in an area traditionally known for rugged appearances), but upon further thought, I can remember similar reactions.

As someone who has been caring for a long beard for many years now, I can tell you that you get used to the comments and stares after awhile. Eventually, you ignore negative (and even positive) reactions from strangers because you realize their opinions aren’t really that important. And reactions from friends and family start to become less frequent when they realize the beard has become a part of you (whether they approve or not).

So, the important thing is to do what YOU want. If you like the beard, keep it growing. If not, shave it when you reach your publishing milestone. At least you can say that you’ve done something that very few guys get to do in their lifetime: grow an epic beard!

And I know I said opinions from strangers don’t matter, but that is a truly impressive beard! Everything about it is wonderful including the color. I’m hoping to see an update in a year when it is two years long. Good luck with the comic and keep the beard growing!

Joe Aug07

Alec,
I feel ya'. I have been looked at that way alot and after a while you just get used to it. It becomes something to laugh about. Because I am a 6'ft 250lbs black man with a bald head people always think that I am a fotball player or rapper, I could never be an Artist or Professor. It is a strange world we live in.

joel Gill Aug08

It's no fun being scary, dude.

The worst thing is that once you get used to being a scary guy who people don't approach, some lady comes up to you and DOES ask for directions. Arg! Can't win!

darrylayo Aug09

Charles Mackay, in his 1852 classic "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds", has a chapter "The Influence of Politics and Religion on the Hair and Beard." The whole book is wonderful - it can be downloaded at Gutenberg.org but is also still in print and easily found in used bookstores (just make sure not to get an abridged edition).

indrifan Aug10

Hie super bearded! Me too I'm a longbearded man 60 years old, but I'm bearded since I was 20. And at the time I worked in a bank, so I really know what it means to be non accepted from "normal" people. Anyway what's "Normality"? As someone said, Normality is simply a question about Majority. So it's clear that we are not considered "normal".But you say right ; under the beard we are always the same person. Well during the years I must tell that people apreciate my beard, and becoming older lot of people ask to touch it, and lot of people ask not to cut. etc.. Finally, if you have enough personality inside you can wear what you prefer to, never being offensive to other people.
Gabriele

Gabriele Aug17

according to sikh philosophy, cutting hair is the equivalent of self mutiliation because hair carry dna and therefore considered living bodyparts.

applaud you on your endeavour, putting up with rudeness of society is also part of sikh philosophy as it helps build up character.

punjabinkarperated Sep08

You look hot. I'd talk to you. Anytime.

inkgrrl Oct20

Hi Alec. I hope you decide to keep your beard even after the comic is completed. It's a nice beard and it would be a shame to go back to scraping your face with sharp steel just to conform to the shallow expectations of the people who've been rude.

Abram Jan01

Your beard is beautiful. I hope you keep it!

ron Jan02

Hi Alec. One of the guys at beardcommunity directed me to your blog. Great beard, brother!
If the beard isn't for you, then I hope when you shave you will always remember the experiences you've been given, both good and bad. I really feel as though every man should grow out his beard at least once in his life, to see if he likes it. You have the right to, after all. No one can take that away.
Jason

Jason Z Jan03

Uh... wow, thanks to all the Beard Community members for your support!

Alec Jan03

Awesome beard! Hope you keep it even after the comic is finished. Well done!

Brian Jan04

god, you look hot. :O
dont ever shave, alec

mandy May15

Heart the beard. Definitely need to hook up with a Sikh about grooming though.. haha :)

Neena May25

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