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The Beard Trend Crosses Gender Boundaries

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Three years ago, I declared the amusing novelty of facial hair was on its way out.

I was so violently wrong.

Beards of all shapes, sizes and designs have taken over the world, and they don't seem to be thinning out. Increasingly more, they're even crossing gender boundaries.

The expression of face fuzz has endless creative variations.

Take my friend Clayton. His (now ex-)wife, Alex, wanted him to grow Elvis sideburns. He wanted a Groucho Marx. The end result was a hybrid of the two, a sort of Sgt. Floyd Pepper from the Muppets. A burnstache. Mustchops.

Clayton grew in a wee soul patch under his bottom lip, just to get wild. He ended up with hair everywhere except his lower jawbones, or the opposite of K-Fed's terrifying pencil-thin, chin-strap (also known as the "douche beard"). When asked about his unique scruff, Clayton explained that it had been "originally popularized by a U.S. president in the 1800s," if a trend can still be considered popularized 200 years later.

Coincidentally -- purely -- Clayton is also beardbald on his lower jaw area. As far as I can tell, most guys suffer this ailment, where a peculiar patch on their face has zero hair follicles. My husband's is next to his left ear, which results in one Vanilla Ice sideburn, with lines and zigzags naturally shaved in. This has not, however, stopped him from occasionally growing them out. The plus side: I never have to fear my man attempting the lumberjack fave: mutton chops.

Options for facial hair designs are only limited by a man's imagination (well, and his blank spots). In a "quest for every beard," blogger Jon Dyer experimented with 42 different scruff styles, including a few rarer species, such as the Hollywoodian (mustache-beard sans sideburns). Dyer calls himself an annual winter beard-wearer and active celebrator of not only Octobeard and No Shave November, but also December's MaBeGroMo (Macho Beard Growing Month, which he created himself).

"Growing a beard is one of the simplest, zero-effort, macho things you can do," he writes on his blog.

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The beard trend has even expanded to surpass gender boundaries. Boulder has a new "draglesque" troupe, a fusion of drag kings (women who dress up like men) and burlesque.

The beard changes everything, says drag king Sam Sidwell. She walks differently. Moves and gestures differently. Sidwell's overall energy shifts.

Mainstream America is more than familiar with drag queens -- men who dress up as women or as a female caricature. RuPaul and his "Drag Race" has earned six reality TV seasons -- so far. Vegas is bursting with drag queen shows.

But few people can name a famous drag king. They remain on the fringe of the fringe.

Sidwell believes it's important to challenge that. And at least around here, the number of drag kings is growing.

At drag king shows, women wear beards and mustaches and men's clothing. Some stuff their pants with socks. Some bind their breasts. Others don't. Music ranges from ZZ Top to Beyonce.

"There's an amazing whirlwind of women expressing parts of themselves that are definitely new to a lot of us," Sidwell says.

In particular, the masculine side.

Sidwell believes people can be simultaneously feminine and masculine, with neither side demeaning the other, she says. In fact, she believes the opposite.

"(Gender roles) really limit your ability to fully be yourself and really open up to who you are and be real," she says. "You can try so hard, but there's more to life than just living on this track of what we think we should be because of what we've been exposed to."

What beard should you sport?

When selecting your beard style, experts recommend complimenting your face shape. Let it grow for two weeks, and then re-examine your creation, according to eHow.com. At this point, the Web site says, you will have experience two bouts of itching and you possibly look homeless. Considering your follicular strengths, choose a style. A weak stache? Opt for the Lincoln. Bare cheeks? A goatee is your friend.

Are your strengths on the edges of your face? If so, grow it long and flowy, a la Amish, or if you want to get beat up all the time, step into the chin strap. Feeling innovative? Shave everything except the edges, sideburns and then shave your head, except for your bangs. Voila -- you've mastered the Hair Ring of Fire. I'm pretty sure that was popularized by a red-headed U.S. Secretary of State in the 1700s.

Important vocabulary

Increase your knowledge and impress your friends by incorporating these terms into your daily life. Source: Urbandictionary.com.

Stache-ism: Prejudice or discrimination toward individuals with mustaches.

Beard Goggles: When you see a man with a beard, and you automatically think that person is awesome, funny, chill or just an overall cool dude just because he has a beard.

Beard of Shame: The beard that a man will grow after his girlfriend has broken up with him.

Read more stories from the weirdest city on the planet, Boulder, Colo., here.

Photo courtesy of the Boulder Daily Camera.