AntBanter! Barnets and beards

Is it really nearly the end of Movember? It certainly is and when it comes to follicular artistry, pro cyclists are all over it like crumbs on a goatee. So it’s only fitting that as we take a fond and lighthearted look back over the 2013 cycling season, Sheree and I linger a moment on a definite emerging trend that we’d like to call ‘Barnets and beards’.

Overzealous grooming isn’t something that you would really expect from guys who spend several hours a day underneath a helmet, but haircuts are a really big thing in the peloton, aren’t they, Sheree?

Sheree: We’d previously commented on the emergence of strong support for the mullet with our birthday homage to Maxim Iglinskiy but we’ve also got hair soaring to vertiginous heights. Argonaut god Marcel Kittel, we’re looking at you.

yellowKittel sign 2

It’s big, it’s blond – it’s fit for an ArgoGod.

Marcel’s splendid blond quiff has been increasing exponentially in size, along with his palmares, as he started rockin’ the Top Gun look, complete with aviator shades, at this year’s Tour de France. Since then it has only gone from strength to strength. I suspect he’s on Alpecin, that best-selling German caffeine shampoo.

Ant: I wonder if Uvex are working on a Kuku Penthouse-style modification to Kittel’s helmet to allow room for his hair? A ‘Quiff-Outhouse’, perhaps?

Taylor Movember

That Boy Phinney with hair as tall as the trees

Sheree: But Marcel is not alone, oh no, we have That Boy Phinney with a much more voluminous and curly style but no less tall as the trees. We also have Movistarlet Eros Capecchi who seems to have gone more for gelling his hair into an Elvis rockabilly quiff.

Great head of hair (image: Movistar)

The Elvis of the peloton

Ant: Blimey! Is that really Eros, or Roger Ramjet? Sadly I fall into the latter category, although in my younger days, my inexpert use of hair product just left me looking like Sideshow Bob after windy rides. Where I do excel however, much to Kitty’s chagrin, is the full beard.


Ant in his teenage years

Sheree: Moving onto facial hair, I have to ask why? The boys shave, wax, pluck and buff themselves to slick, shiny aerodynamic perfection and then grow a beard or moustache. Now I’ve done some research and there are a few possible explanations.

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Ladies’ Favourite Bernie Eisel has his ‘devil-may-care’ facial hair look down to an art form

A new study advises guys to ‘ditch the razor, get the date’. Women find men most attractive with ten-day stubble, says journal Evolution and Human Behavior. [Ten-day stubble: isn’t that a beard?  – Kitty.] Obviously a number of lycra-clad lovelies, most notably Ladies’ Favourite™ Bernhard Eisel, have read this study. Indeed, stubble seems to be popular in time trials, where you would have thought baby-faced smoothness would be more desirable. [But only Fabs looks good with stubble in a time trial – Kitty.]

Ant: I seem to remember hearing (and I think this came from Phil & Paul so take it with a pinch of salt), that this stems from an old superstition that shaving sapped energy by encouraging the body to lend its resources to pumping out hair rather than watts. Clearly this is hokum.

Worlds Men's TT podium 2013

Wiggins had his Henry VIII codpiece, Cancellara had his nonchalant facial hair, but baby-faced Tony Martin streamlined his way to victory

Sheree: The same study also tackled Miss Fondue’s bugbear: beards. Women rate men’s bushy beards as much less attractive than light stubble. Researchers discovered that men with facial hair are seen as more aggressive than their clean-shaven counterparts but the most surprising finding was it was other guys who were the most impressed with beards. So maybe riders grow beards to intimidate the opposition.

How scary is that? (image: Rabobank)

If that doesn’t intimidate you, what on earth would?

In addition, the authors of a paper in Behavioural Ecology point to a clear connection between beards and immunity. Why? Because hair on the face and body are potential localised breeding sites for disease-carrying ectoparasites. So anyone able to grow and maintain a beard must be more resilient to illnesses. [Oh dear God, the beardy might be immune but what is crawling around in there looking for a victim? – Kitty.]

But if you’re determined to sport one, beard aficionado Allan Peterkin, author of One Thousand Beards: A Cultural History of Facial Hair advises to keep it simple: no braiding, no beads, no elastic bands, no dyes that don’t match your natural colour, and no wild, scraggly beards. A clean, well-maintained beard is the most attractive option.

Sagan final wheelie ASO

Trust us – it’s green

Ant: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the Ten Dam Wolf Man look, although the salivating is probably a step too far. But don’t get me started on Peter Sagan’s green aberration!

Sheree: We’re now left with that half-way house, the moustache. I’m not a fan, I think it makes the boys look like 70s porn stars. I mean who can forget the ‘tache sported by Garmin’s Dave Z back in 2008? What was that about? [I think he looks more like a Victorian magician – Kitty.]

Full-blown porn star (image: Garmin)

Dave Z (Image: Garmin)

Movember co-founder Justin Coghlan claims a moustache helps develop a new persona and boosts confidence – like Clark Kent turning into Superman. He could well be correct. Look what it’s done for Argonaut John Degenkolb since he started sporting a ‘tache.

Race-winning 'tache (image: Argos-Shimano)

Race-winning ‘tache (Image: Argos-Shimano)

Ant: I’m sure Dave Zabriskie would love the Superman reference, while an in-form John Degenkolb reminds me of Errol Flynn. Sadly though, the moustache has not been widely successful in the modern professional peloton, and other examples of top lip ticklers are few and far between. It’s a great shame, as the moustache lends an air of substance, of pioneering endeavour and derring-do.

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John Degenkolb’s dad, Errol Flynn

While we might hotly debate the pros and cons of facial hair, growing a moustache this month will not only make you feel good – it might save someone’s life. When over 1,000 of last year’s Movember participants were quizzed, 67% had advised someone else see a doctor and 43% admitted they were now more aware and educated about the health risks. So whatever style you sport, it’s surely worth abandoning the razor for a month.

Movember is an annual, month-long event involving the growing of moustaches during November to raise awareness of men’s health issues such as prostate cancer and associated charities.

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