by Doctor Science
Despite his distaste for fashion, Thoreau did have some flair — if you could call it that. In the winter of 1855, Thoreau grew a neckbeard, which he claimed was for protection against "throat colds," but also, he insisted, was quite popular with the ladies. Fellow author and Concord resident Louisa May Alcott reportedly pointed out the impossibility of this, mentioning to Emerson that Thoreau's neckbeard "will most assuredly deflect amorous advances and preserve the man's virtue in perpetuity."
Thoreau wasn't the only 19th-century male with this strange delusion: one of the first to come to my mind was John C. Calhoun, from his "crazy-eyed proto-Confederate" period:
A *flowing* neckbeard, that's really special and almost fascinating.
But what I don't understand is why some men persist in wearing neckbeards *today*. The above gentlemen were bearding in the era of the aptly-named cut-throat razor, and I could see why someone with an unsteady or uncertain hand might decide to try a neckbeard instead of flirting with danger. Although I agree with Louisa May Alcott, the chances that this would help them flirt with *women* were no better than minute.
I surveyed the men I had handy, and they all agreed that neck-shaving isn't difficult or risky at all with a safety razor, and it's trivial with an electric razor. None of them could explain neckbeards, or the kind of growth some guys had in college: a beardless face, but with hair growing downward from the underside of the jaw -- it always reminded me of algae or something growing beneath an overhang.
So, what do you male people here think about neckbeards? Do they make sense to you? If they were a fashion of sorts in the mid-19th century, could they come back again? What a horrible thought. Recount hilarious tales of facial hair mistakes of your youth, and point me to other notable neckbeards in history and art.