The optimism of beards

I’m seeing a lot more beards lately. I don’t have any stats to back it up (though Google does!), but my gut tells me that beards per capita has skyrocketed. If I’m right, then this is a great sign for the future of innovation.

Here’s an excellent video by Brett McKay of The Art of Manliness wherein he summarizes the modern history of facial hair, beginning in the late 1800s (start at 2m 0s).

So it seems that ritualized shaving became an ingrained part of our society after the military of the early 1900s adopted it as a requirement for all soldiers. Shaving quickly came to signify conformity, and that Organization Man attitude soon spread from the military to the corporate world of the 50s–a world of greater and greater centralization, and less and less individuality.

With quality-of-life advances generally resulting from radical thinking, the rise of the Organization Man spelled disaster for innovation. We can see the impact in a chart of “human advances” per capita (HT: Tyler Cowen’s The Great Stagnation).

With innovation in the toilet, why am I so optimistic?

Beards are a leading indicator of innovation, and I’m seeing beards everywhere. That wasn’t the case five years ago, or even three. If beards really do reflect a rejection of the status quo, then more beards means more people are starting to think with their own noggins!

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