Full beards make style comeback in France

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Learned and serious like the ancient Greeks or casual like 1950s "Beats"; the full beard is back in fashion in France to the delight of the nation's barbers.

After years in the style wilderness, the sort of bushy beard that takes weeks rather than days to grow -- from the plain old full beard to mutton chops or a chin curtain -- has finally displaced designer stubble and other barely-there styles of recent years.

This summer, displays of thick facial hair are once more fashionable in France.

The front cover of gay magazine Tetu's July and August issue featured two men sporting perfectly-trimmed beards.

Fashion house Maison Martin Margiela's latest catwalk show, meanwhile, featured a succession of bearded models.

The ancient Greeks regarded beards as a sign of virility while Europeans during the latter part of the 19th century saw facial hair as a symbol of solid, middle-class respectability.

In the 1950s, the beard's reappearance among so-called "Beats" -- a term derived from writer Jack Kerouac's "Beat Generation" -- came at a time "when the beard was no longer fashionable among the powerful", fashion historian Laurent Cotta told AFP.

Non-conformists adopted it as a symbol of rebellion, a way of showing that "one didn't care about one's appearance", he said.

The 1960s hippie counter-culture also embraced the full beard but over the subsequent decades it largely disappeared until the emergence of the designer stubble look of the 1990s.

Today's beard says "that you work in the artistic world", Cotta said, adding that despite its new-found popularity it might still raise a few eyebrows in more traditional work environments such as banking or insurance.

The country's recent fondness for the full beard goes back less than two years to a small number of trend setters.

Antoine Ettori, 28, who works as a graphic artist in Paris, said he had had a thick but short beard for at least a year.

"I am far from being the only one in my profession," he said, adding that colleagues had not given any sign they disapproved.

Maintenance, however, was more time consuming than shaving, he said.

"I trim it regularly... to stop myself turning into Father Christmas," he said.

Sarah Daniel-Hamizi, who opened "The Barber of Paris" hairdressing salon in Paris ten years ago, said there had been an upturn in business due to the growing popularity of beards.

"Hairdressers are calling me from all over to get trained (because) it's a traditional trade that requires a lot of technique," she said.

Society now accepted thick facial hair as long as it was well maintained, she said, adding that some clients came to the salon weekly for a trim starting at 18 euros ($23).

And she said the advantages were not restricted just to covering up scars and acne or distracting attention from baldness or an odd-shaped face.

"There's something virile about it... it's a means of seduction, just as hair is for girls," she added.

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