After reading Brosephus' post below about the Navy pilot who was asked to trim his handlebar moustache, I realized that there have now been 3 postings on this site about facial hair, and none were written by me. This distressed me, because although Brosephus has been known to grow a full beard from time to time, I am the resident pogonotrophe. Considering the fact that I've been able to grow a full beard since I was about 12 years old (unfortunately, that is not a typo) and have amused myself cultivating my facial hair in a variety of ways since, I have yet to throw my two cents in on the whole "beard" phenomenon. Until now.
I read an article years ago in which Tim Allen (yes, that Tim Allen) suggested that in the age of women's liberation, that growing beards was one of the last thing men could do exclusively (a few stray whiskers, or Frida Kahlo-style lip hair do not count. Jennifer Miller, probably the most well-known "bearded lady" does count, but she and her sistren are the overwhelming exception to what I'm talking about.) I remember looking at photos of men from the civil war and early part of the 20th century and thinking that we had lost something culturally when men started shaving their entire faces, all the time. As a kid, I used to read a comic book called Elfquest, and the male characters, upon reaching adulthood, all developed their own distinctive facial hair (without needing to shave) - it represented to me the ability of men to make themselves unique from other men.
In the modern age, it has seemed (at least until recently) that facial growth, especially unique growth departing from standard beards and van dykes, was the almost-exclusive province of gay men in general and bears specifically. This trend appears to be changing, as more and more men (straight and gay) rediscover the joys of facial hair, and not just during the winter months or in Williamsburg. I've started taking informal polls as I ride the subway to work each day, counting dudes with facial hair and those without - we (I'm currently sporting a Balbo, and the wifey-to-be happens to prefer me in a beard) outnumber the clean-shaven every time. So maybe this is the beginning of a new era for male facial hair and creativity. To paraphrase the end of the Passover seder, "next year at the World Beard and Moustache Championships!"