Beardgate 2013 has had me pondering about facial hair for most (some) of today. Debuted on Newsnight on Monday night, Jeremy Paxman's new facial fuzz - not the most impressive or bushiest of beards but a light grey carpet, if you will - launched thousands of Tweets, articles and online polls. The unsuspecting audience was faced (pun intended) with a small, yet tumultuous act of anarchy, as Paxman broke the mould of smooth-chinned television presenters. In fact, he was the first ever BBC news anchor to appear on screen with a beard - raising a rather hairy issue.
A new word is now trending thanks to Paxman's comment on his new face-cosy - pogonophobia - which translates as an abnormal fear of beards. Granted, they don't suit every face and they loiter on every corner of Hoxton and Shoreditch like suits in Canary Wharf - but they are just the right amount of bohemian for me. Nonconformist, but without the sandals. I am a big fan. I like the rough-and-ready attitude that comes with uncultivated facial hair (please note, those awful chin-strap beards do not count). The longer and hairier, the better, in my opinion. It is the sign of someone who doesn't feel the need to shave every day, because they have more important things to do - like saving the world or fronting an indie band. Look at Thor! He didn't have time to shave patterns into his glorious chin hair - he was too busy fighting evil with a big hammer.
Yes, beards are fantastic - but facial hair can go horribly wrong. Remember when Michael Cera, aka George Michael in Arrested Development, grew a weird little moustache? He was less Thor and more like a ten-year-old drug baron. The thin, wispy upper-lip hair just did nothing for him. And how about Brad Pitt's grey, shaggy number with beads in? Not for me, I'm afraid. Beading facial hair is an obvious no-no - it goes without saying. It's enough to turn anyone pogonophobic.
However, the true beardists - the likes of George Clooney and David Beckham - really emphasise how great beards can be. I'm actually a fan of Paxo's new look, despite the stick he has received (feminist-alert, he has experienced what female presenters have endured for years - public scrutiny over appearance). It made him look a bit more human - like a 63-year-old who enjoyed riding steam trains in his spare time, when he wasn't grilling students on University Challenge.
Maybe our hysteria stems from the idea of a change in the television presenter status quo, as squeaky-clean is replaced by a little bit of shabby. Good for you, Paxman, for breaking the unspoken rule! We should probably get used to it - I dread to think what would happen if Cameron appeared on our screens, sporting an enormous chin duster. In the future, the news, the weather reports (we won't be able to see the map behind the presenter) and Channel 4 property programmes could well be obscured by facial fur. Beards in the workplace - whatever next?