My beard has changed my life

Tom McCooey tends to his beard. The St Helens Reporter man started growing his impressive thatch one year ago.
Tom McCooey tends to his beard. The St Helens Reporter man started growing his impressive thatch one year ago.
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Proper real-men beards - think lumberjacks - are now all the rage. You can’t open a newspaper or turn on your TV without confronting the latest hairy growth. St Helens Reporter journalist Tom McCooey - who hasn’t shaved for over a year - talks about how it has transformed his life...

It started as a bet. Well, sort of.

Our man McCooey before and after growing his beard

Our man McCooey before and after growing his beard

In January 2013 it took me a couple of goes to pass my shorthand exam while studying to be a journalist and during an after class pint with another student, not shaving until I’d cracked it was suggested.

But exam success was not enough for me to go reaching for the razor - and ever since, Tom has come with beard.

The choice to display my folically successful genes on my face comes with a surprising amount of attention - even in these times of ‘peak beard’. It seems impossible to do anything from open a newspaper to watch a match without seeing at least a handful of men who have ditched the daily chore of shaving - so it should be reasonable to think a little face fuzz wouldn’t turn heads.

But from having a football fan experience ‘beard envy’ and ask for a photograph with me at Wembley to sharing beard tweets with Warriors star Jordan James, getting through a day without a beard conversation is a distant memory.

At 16 I went through a period of displaying various ‘styles’ of beard with varying success before interest in the opposite gender made me reluctantly opt for smooth - much to the disappointment of my now much missed and eternally bearded father.

Whether in acknowledgement of carrying on a generation-old family tradition, (as well as my dad, my late uncle also displayed a well-kept maine) or to display my journalistic/rock n’ roll aspirations I don’t know - but my beard has forced me into alien considerations in life.

On an almost daily basis an item of food gets added to the ‘foods to avoid in public’ list. Saying goodbye to eggs benedict was a hard hungover decision but is it worth shaving for? No way!

There also is the whole new world of beard care to learn.

A long beard needs to be smart, which means neat hair and finding a barber skilled enough to neaten those facial locks carefully (leave the grey patch alone, please). It takes hours of Googling - and that’s not to mention the wonderful world of beard oils and shampoos. Not just any stuff will do, you understand.

There’s also Starbucks. Latte froth in beard emergencies aside, how do you deal with fuzz novices and St Helens star Paul Wellens asking how long it took you to grow it?

Does it put women off? I wouldn’t know. My better and less folically endowed half is of the rare breed which prefers their men bearded.

Every once in a while reactions are not so kind. I recently received a face to face earful in a pub toilet because ‘everyone has beards, why… why?’ But I take it as another case of beard envy.

* Have you grown an impressive beard? Tell our readers. Send a picture or give us a call. Ring Jean Fisher on 01942 506221 or email sthelens.reporter@lep.co.uk or tweet @StHelensReport