What Grows Must be Trimmed: A review of three students’ No-Shave November

I followed three students as they grew their beards. This is their story. 

While+many+on-campus+organizations+participate+in+%22No+Shave+November%22+for+philanthropy%2C+others+participate+for+the+sake+of+the+experience.+%28Photo+courtesy+Anchor+Link%29

While many on-campus organizations participate in "No Shave November" for philanthropy, others participate for the sake of the experience. (Photo courtesy Anchor Link)

Andrei Olaru

Beard: noun, incredibly attractive growth of hair on the chin and lower cheeks, one of the most nuanced forms of personal expression. 

Think hipsters, metal bands, Abraham Lincoln— the diversity and majesty of beards enable people to present their life story on their face. I have considered myself a beard enthusiast and committed facial hair advocate all my life, despite never having grown facial hair to my satisfaction. Perhaps the scarcity of beardedness in my life has made me long for one? Self-analysis aside, for the past month I’ve devoted myself to the noble goal of exploring beard culture among Vanderbilt students. And what better time to do it than during November? 

My three subjects were first-years Sterling Gourdine and Kyle Nevitt as well as sophomore Oz Orun. These three Vanderbilt students had one goal this November: to test their abilities to grow facial hair. I joined them as they navigated the intimate relationship between man and beard.

 

Checkpoint 1: Nov. 10

 

Sterling Gourdine

First-year Sterling Gourdine embarks on the month-long journey of “No Shave November.” (Photo by Andrei Olaru)

Vanderbilt Hustler: Have you had facial hair for a while?

Sterling Gourding: Yeah, I guess. Maybe just a couple years.

VH: What have your past ventures in facial hair been like?

SG: Not great; before I had any facial hair, it was just me whining about how I didn’t have any facial hair. And then I started to grow some, but my beard grows weird — it grows like a goatee and then gets full. And it grows unevenly.

VH: How would you solve that?

SG: I try to go about it just by shaving, hoping it grows back better. Or I shave where there should be a beard but isn’t.

VH: What are your plans for this month?

SG: Not to shave and to see if it grows back faster and fuller, especially more full than usual. 

VH: How’s it going so far, how are you feeling about it?

SG: There has been positive progress. Not where my mustache is, but where my beard is. 

VH: Is this a permanent lifestyle change? Will you forever keep this beard?

SG: I don’t know, I shave when I go to parties and dances, usually. But other than that I don’t like to shave. 

 

Kyle Nevitt 

First-year Kyle Nevitt at the first checkpoint of “No Shave November.” (Photo by Andrei Olaru)

Vanderbilt Hustler: Describe your past experience with facial hair.

Kyle Nevitt: I grow it out when I can, but it never really looks that good. I kinda do it just because I’m lazy. What inspired me this month is that I could be lazy and slap a No Shave November label on it.

VH: How’s it turning out so far?

KN: You tell me — it looks great, doesn’t it? 

VH: Absolutely. Have you been receiving more attention recently?

KN: I wouldn’t say I’m receiving more than usual, but every once in a while I’ll get a comment. 

VH: Do you think after this month you’ll keep on trying?

KN: Possibly, I don’t know. We’ll see how it looks at the end of the month. 

VH: How much is left in you? How much growth do you have?

KN: Probably ten inches. I want a full grown beard. By the end of the month, I want it to be Gandalf-level. 

 

Oz Orun 

Oz Orun had already not shaven for weeks at the start of “No Shave November.” (Photo by Andrei Olaru)

Vanderbilt Hustler: How long have you had facial hair for? Is this your first time trying to grow it out?

Oz Orun: No. In my high school, we had to shave. 

VH: So you’ve been oppressed your whole life.

OO: Yeah, it was a rule. So I couldn’t have a beard when I was in high school. After high school, I started growing. And now I’m here. I shave once a month. 

VH: Wow, this month is easy for you.

OO: It is, it doesn’t grow too much. 

VH: Would you say this is about what it looks like, usually?

OO: Yes. 

VH: What are your tips for first-timers growing out their beards?

OO: I just grow it, and I just shave the lower part of my neck so it looks more clean.

VH: You like it so far?

OO: Yeah, I already haven’t shaved in a month. So it’s going to be two months. 

VH: So “No Shave November” is a lifestyle for you.

OO: It’s probably going to be my whole life. 

 

Checkpoint 2: Nov. 20

 

Sterling

Sterling Gourdine sees some significant growth at the second checkpoint. (Photo by Andrei Olaru)

VH: We’re well into this month — what’s happened to the face? 

SG: It’s coming back pretty strong. I did not think it would come back this strong, especially on the neck. Usually it doesn’t. But now that I’ve started shaving my neck more, it’s just been popping up. And I’m like, “Ok, I gotta cut it.” Now that I’ve been shaving it there, it’s coming back more on my neck. And now I’m like “Ahh.” But overall, it actually seems to be growing pretty normally this time. I think. 

VH: Has your facial hair changed your outfits a little bit?

SG: No, not really, not yet. I always wear dark colors. Usually, when I’m shaved, I might wear lighter colors. I might wear plaid. It kinda depends on how I feel. But I’ve been going to the gym earlier, so I’ve just been wearing workout clothes all day. 

VH: What problems has your beard given you?

SG: My chin is itchy. Every time I shave, for whatever reason, I just start breaking out, like around my mouth. That just annoys me. I’m fine when I shave, I’m fine when I rub my face with my hands, but when my hair starts growing back, I just break out. 

VH: “No Shave November” also applies to other parts of your body. Is that a thing for you?

SG: I trim. I have body hair here [my armpits]. But I don’t really shave anywhere else. I’m kinda scared, especially if I shave my armpits, of cutting myself. 

VH: Have you noticed increased confidence?

SG: I’m about the same when it’s there or when it’s not. I feel older when I have a beard, though.

VH: Is that good or bad?

SG: I don’t know, it’s just “eh.” It’s neutral. It’s there. 

VH: Other comments?

SG: It’s weird, I scratch my chin more when I don’t have hair than when I do have hair. Just because I expect it to be there, so I scratch, and then it’s not there. I have like a phantom beard. 

 

Kyle

Kyle Nevitt faces a neckbeard as he continues to grow out his facial hair. (Photo by Andrei Olaru)

VH: Where’s the growth happening? 

KN: A little sideburn going on, and I got the neckbeard. 

VH: Did you ever expect how far down the throat the beard would reach?

KN: No, I did not expect that. It’s going pretty far. It’s not even neck anymore, it’s almost, like, esophagus. 

VH: Have you found yourself acting differently around people as a result of your facial hair?

KN: Not really, actually. Sometimes I forget I even have it. And then I start scratching my face.

VH: You said you’re not that happy with how it looks right now.

KN: Not terribly happy, but it’s not terrible. I mean, it is terrible, but I can deal with it. 

VH: If you were to kiss someone on the lips, would they feel the beard? 

KN: I don’t know. Let’s find out. I think some people like it. I feel like it would be kinda nasty, getting hair on your mouth, but some are totally into it. 

VH: Have you noticed growth between the eyebrows at all?

KN: Slightly, it doesn’t make me happy at all. I hate it. 

 

Oz

Unfortunately, Oz went home before we could do a follow-up. He was kind enough to send me this visual status update:

Oz Orun doesn’t see an end in sight for his “No Shave” beard. (Photo courtesy Oz Orun)

Looking good, Oz. 

 

Checkpoint 3: Dec. 1 

 

Sterling

Gourdine’s family had mixed opinions on his beard growth when they got to see it over Thanksgiving break. (Photo by Andrei Olaru)

VH: Your family has seen the beard. Have they shared their thoughts?

SG: My mom kinda likes it. Which is funny, I didn’t think she would. But my dad was like, “You need to shave!” 

VH: And then you say “No! This is for science.”

SG: Yeah, it’s for an interview! I’ll be fine! I’ll shave in December. And he’s like, “Alright, when you come back, it’ll be gone, right?” And I’m like, “Yeah, yeah, whatever.” Then my mom is like, “That’s not gonna be gone is it?” And I’m like, “No, probably not.”

VH: So you’re keeping it for a little while. 

SG: Yeah. I was growing a little neckbeard, a little fuzz down here. So I shaved that, but I kept the rest of it. It’s definitely even this time. Usually, the left side will grow faster and longer than the right side. Same with the hair on my head, too. 

VH: I wonder what that says about you as a person. Do you think this is your new look?

SG: I wanna grow the beard that Chadwick Boseman has. That’s the look I’m going for. 

VH: Why is your dad so anti-beard?

SG: He thinks people should look as young as possible. He’s like, if you look old, then people are gonna bother you about it. He looks basically like he did thirty years ago. You wanna look young for the longest amount of time. Because when you start to look old, then you feel old, and you can’t go back.

VH: Are you feeling old?

SG: A little bit. I’ll definitely cut it, but this is my finals beard. It’ll be gone eventually. 

VH: Overall, how would you rate the experience of not shaving?

SG: It was good this time, definitely better than last time. I guess it’s a 7 out of 10. Last year, nothing was really happening. I didn’t even need to shave. Thank you, puberty.

 

Kyle

Nevitt proudly displays his end-of-month beard. (Photo by Andrei Olaru)

VH: Final thoughts. Beard.

KN: Uh, it feels fine. I don’t feel that different, and I kind of like scratching it, but it doesn’t feel like it looks good anymore. It’s not so much the beard part, it’s the neckbeard part that’s just not good. 

VH: When did you cross this threshold?

KN: Like two weeks in. 

VH: What did your family think?

KN: I told them it was part of a research study. But not that much support, honestly. I did it for you, Andrei. 

VH: Nothing means more to me. 

KN: When I shave tonight, I might shave a little “Andrei” in there. 

VH: Save me a couple beard clippings. Are you gonna miss it?

KN: Yeah. I honestly might just shave the neckbeard and see how it looks from there. The ‘stache has got to go, too. 

VH: Are you saying you might keep the mutton chops?

KN: By keeping it, I mean I’ll keep it, look in the mirror and say “Oh no, that’s terrible,” then get rid of it. I realize now that I’ve been through a dry spell — communicating with women, for the most part. 

VH: Is it related to this?

KN: I think it is. But it’s ok, it’s grind season. 

 

Oz

For the sake of his date, Orun had to say an early goodbye to his beard. (Photo by Andrei Olaru)

VH: What happened to your facial hair?

OO: It got so long that I started playing with it. It wasn’t soft, so I started using conditioner. I thought it was going to help, but it didn’t. My old roommate was using beard oil, maybe that could be helpful. 

VH: But why did you end up shaving it?

OO: I had a date. 

VH: I don’t know Oz, I was pretty into the beard. 

OO: I like my beard, but when it’s short, it’s better. 

VH: How long has it been since you’ve been shaven?

OO: One, one-and-a-half years.

VH: Your date needs to know the sacrifice you made for her.

OO: It was like a baby. I didn’t like my face without a beard. It didn’t look good, I promise. It made me cry.