Monday, June 23, 2014

USA v. Portugal: Soccer and Facial Hair

What a great match we saw last night.  In the photo above, the US keeper Tim Howard watches in frustration as a ball headed by Portugal's Silvestre Varela (on a cross from Cristiano Ronaldo) rockets into the net in the final postgame minute to tie the game.  The Americans had played well, coming from behind and then scoring a second goal.  They seemed sure to win until the very last moment.

A real heartstopper.

Americans have taken to professional soccer.  I was on an airplane during the US team's first match of the World Cup.  When the American team team scored its second and winning goal, the plane erupted in cheers.

Next up: The US team plays Germany on Thursday at noon EDT.  I'll be watching.

Now let's talk about hair.

Here again is Tim Howard.  He has a shaved head and an unshaved chin.   Earlier this year I described the remarkable growth of facial hair in another sport ("Beards of Baseball, April 24, 2014), but I have realized since that I was missing the much larger picture.

(For those of a curious bent, ESPN in 2010 took a famous photo of Howard wearing no beard, nor anything else, lunging as if to block a corner shot.  He is a prodigious physical specimen, as might be expected of someone who can play 90 minutes of world-level soccer twice each week.)

One of Portugal's star players, Raul Meireles, left, was pulled off the field toward the end of yesterday's match.

Notice that Meireles wears a beard like Howard's and, on the top of his head, not just a Faux Hawk hairdo (see my post, "Men's Hair Fashion: the Faux Hawk," April 19) but the whole enchilada, a Mohawk cut with shaved sides.

It seems to be a family matter in Meireles' case. At right is a picture I found of him and his also-tattooed and Mohawked wife taking a swim.

Beards, big bushy ones, are everywhere these days.  Four or five years ago, young hipster men were sporting carefully trimmed Van Dykes and ultra thin sideburns.  Now full beards are the group's fashion accessory of choice.

I was curious about this, and so when I had a chance to talk with a bewhiskered 28-year-old fellow the other day, I asked him about it.

"So what's the deal with your beard?" I said.

"It's all about the contrast," he answered.  "I have a very tailored look in the clothes and shoes I wear.  Having a big beard just lets me cut loose a little bit."

It appears that the beard is the new black.

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