Most girls go gaga for a good beard. The longer, and bushier the better. Hey – I even admit that most of my Tinder swipe lefts are of the furry faced persuasion. Guys love having them, because they can hide behind them (or hide stuff in them). Ron Burgundy and Tom Selleck give a great mustached face, but there is something less pervy uncle and more burly lumberjack about a well groomed beard. Men gain instant sex appeal and credibility once the whiskers and 5’o clock shadows become a full blown beard. But, only the scruffiest manliest men have beards, right? Wrong. Most hipsters, who can grow them, have them these days – along with tattoos and the coolest bicycles. It’s practically a right of passage. Another group of even less manlier men are rocking beards these days – WOMEN!

Bearded ladies have been sideshow attractions in freakshows for years, such as the infamous Josephine Clofullia, Jane Barnell, and Annie Jones of the early 19th century circus circuit. Women who grow natural facial hair often suffer from a hormonal imbalance, usually an androgen excess, poly cystic ovarian syndrome, or a rare genetic disorder called hypertrichosis. Many women are saying fuck electrolysis and waxing, and are now embracing their real beards – face beards and bearded clams alike! By doing this, they challenge beauty standards and societal expectations of what a proper woman should look like. I remember reading about a girl who had a beard by age 11. She was tormented by her peers and even had death threats. She eventually embraced her body hair, and couldn’t be happier, feeling more feminine with it! She will find love because she loves herself. Follow this link to read the full inspirational story of Harnaam Kaur, a young woman who embraces her facial hair.

Then there are the fakers. We wear our whiskers proud, and support charities and women’s rights by becoming beardos. A whiskerina is a female who wears a faux beard. Fake beards are usually crazy and handcrafted monstrosities, made of everything from real human hair or yarn, to moss and flowers or even rubber snakes. Whiskerina competitions started, so that women can have their own voice in the beard competition world, and not just be a side attraction in the male beard world. Watch the story of the First Annual Whiskerina Competition for Breast Cancer Awareness – it’s awesome.

On stage I have done drag for years, and iconic facial hair is a must. I often sport a moustache and 5’oclock shadow, which looks like everybody’s dad. Some other styles I have rocked are the strap on beard (fake hair molded like a beard with a convenient strap that goes around your head that I used for Boobs Ross, my Bob Ross burlesque skit), the sunglasses with dangling mustache, the pencil on (used for the Walter Sobchek chin strap in The Big Lezbowski show I was in), and the most effectively real looking mustache and crepe hair glued to the face with spirit gum. I was even in a music video with my burlesque troupe, The Stripteasers, dedicated to women with moustaches! Check it out here:

I will be competing in an annual beard competition on St. Patrick’s Day at the Essex St Pub in Buffalo, NY. Last year, my friend Melissa Campbell and I arrived at the competition – faces full of fur – and we looked damn fine. We caused a stir just by being there, people didn’t quite know how to handle us. It felt wonderfully empowering. The “real” beards were all very supportive, and gave us great beard stories and advice. It felt like we were allowed into a secret society. Neither of us won, but we were inspired. Because of that fateful day, I now know a little bit more about being a true whiskerina. So, GAME ON BOYS! This year I predict a win for all womankind.

Like most men of art in this au courant city, I feel an overwhelming urge to let my facial hair grow out as winter settles in. It’s a rather invigorating show of machismo, a throwback to the golden age of manhood, and a new dandy object to dote on—a velvety pet to stroke into regal submission. It keeps my face warm and it ensures brawn and I’m still keeping it brushed by New Year’s (I suggest a bore head brush, for best results).

But then, of course, the whole ordeal comes with a stack of pitiful worries as well. For one, soup will indeed be strained, as will my patience with every soup, coffee and over-easy egg sandwich gooping my mustachios in its ooze. Napkins are suddenly unrecognizable by the end of meals, and I’m catching myself licking hair, on my face, all the time.

What’s more, while some dames will go weak at the knees and pouty at the lips at the sight of a fine bristly face-scape (and some at the site of a not-so-fine one, too), quite a few more will wonder if a bearded man even has cheek bones and a jaw under there—or worse, they’ll assume he most obviously doesn’t. I do not like being thoughtlessly discarded, or ignored.

These (rather ridiculous) concerns—coupled with (even more ridiculous) the fact that I look like more and more of a shoo-in, with every quarter inch of dark growth, for some Homeland extra work—have me, almost every time, reaching vainly for the trimmer after a few months.

And so, this brave new year, newly single, dates scheduled, I most recently did just that. The beard will have me think myself into the dumbest of corners if I let it, and I’m most willing to buzz my way out of it if I do. I combed the cordless Philips through the shag and my face, chiseled real-life bones and all, emerged from under every stroke. And though I was a little sad about giving up (sadder about my reasons), and none too thrilled about the cold I’d be inflicting upon my cheeks, I was happy to retrieve the resplendence of that old visage of mine.

Then, I came to the moustache.

The moustache is a funny thing. As I trimmed away my best-to-date, sveltest Nation-of-Islam look, I narrowed in on the stache, and started to look more and more like a younger, fitter, fewer chinned, more dapper Juan Valdez, a Colombian bean wrangler for the new world. I looked like there are things I know—sensitive, mysterious, darkly things.

And so, as last year it was the Prince moustache, this year, wax out on a Thursday morning in January, I twisted at the very tips of my luxuriant manifest destiny. It twirled up and stayed, just so, on each side, and suddenly I looked like a million sleazy bucks, and felt like it.

In that moment, I wasn’t Tom Selleck, or even Roger Murtaugh; I was Dali, Bill the freakin’ Butcher—I was the goddamn Soup Nazi. By the time I left the house, I was a regular old first-grade hipster douche in my R.M. Williams Chelsea boots and selvedge jeans and 32 oz. dark navy pea coat, stache readied for any obscure reference, but I didn’t even give a care, because I felt and looked like greatness, and that fateful Thursday was the first day of the rest of my mustachioed life.

Everyone—on the bus, on the street, hustle to hustle—seemed to notice. A moustache that’s required some time and energy does not a frivolous gentleman make. I met smiles, I met wide eyes, I met nervous starers, and even the guy at Café Resonance was noticing.

For instance, I know that when he said “I really dig your half-sleeve, too” he was, beyond his control, referring by omission to my whiskers, who loomed boldly without needing a mention, friscalating face wings soaring right into the westerly sun-drenched glory of that afternoon. And it felt lovely on my face, that sun: bones rekindled in the luminous vitamin, upper lip refracting, a solar panel to the smithy of my soul. It was a mixed metaphor kind of ecstasy, and no one could take it away from me.

In that moment, I would be a man with a moustache forever—outside of race, beyond time, everlastingly beeswax-ed. It lasted straight through Saturday. And it was good.

St-Henri’s been getting me snickering lately, and I’ll gander you might agree. Folks have been trying to refurbish its tenement-of-yore, slant-floored, jute-insulated grandeur for a while. The speed of it is starting to show.

I remember 5-buck two-egg breakfast down at Restaurant Place St-Henri, with its onion soup-soaked “home” fries and its greenish eggs. What a rich, cultured scene! And bottomless, hopefully unburnt coffee, too. I remember hitting it nearly every morning, even when strapped, and all the other budget-prone freelancers in the neighbourhood doing the same—our own little wordless congregation. You could always get a booth, except on welfare-check day.

It’s been closed for a while – two years come February – and then John’s 2.0 burned / was burned down this summer. And as much as I’d love to hit Miracle Pizza every morning for a salmonella gamble, this all leaves fewer Quebie options to live by. This all used to be so cheap. Casse-croûte or die, but cheap.

Enter, as such, Midi 6—a tasty, not so expensive, or organized, or Quebie, compromise. It’s Saturday, so I’m hitting the undrinkable dark roast full tilt, caution to the wind. Three creams. Sugar. More sugar. Two eggs over easy, sausage and a croissant and all the coffee I can get down—$6,61 all in before tip.

As for the scene, the gentrifiers within earshot are rattling on about the hypoallergenic way to go, spoon-blitzing their irreverent offspring with gulps of organic purees. I’m also getting an earful of some young Dollard-seeming brunchers on about 30-day money-back guarantees, vacation accrual, and loud-mouthed Shoulda Switched to Telus and I’ve Found My Calling in Compliance boasts.

Everyone seems proper weekend pleased, on a wailer of a time. I catalogue factory-frayed stylings and the sight of sweatpants in public—taking notes on telling Montrealer allophone brain farts like “bang for your dollar.” It’s a little, pointless game; it’s a slow, late morning.

sweatpantsAll of them are so happy with it all I gather that I’m probably the ridiculous one. That the neighbourhood’s just moving on past whatever we thought it was. Whatever some think it to be.

For instance, after breakfast and a block over at the artisanal coffee beanery, the one-gear Fattal-ites are thinking up that the “real yuppies” are actually infesting NDG; that St-Henri is still, essentially, as punk as scabies. The steam wands of their smithy shall micro-foam on in resistance, and 3$ rooibos is about integrity. They sure seem pleased enough.

Meanwhile, cramping my eavesdropping style is a wild-haired, middle-aged behemoth, waiting out a French press in progress, who is railing on at the sweet quipster barista: “open your damn eyes!” the seas are death, the lizard folk, NAFTA, FATCA, the Military Industrial Food Complex (check your Eisenhower, please), the porcine gene pool!!!

It’s like a live-cast of a Rabble article, or my Facebook feed on most days. Yet another sample of the neighbourhood, he finally breezes on out of the shop, but only after having made everyone a little shushed. “Take it easy,” he says, baby smooth. A collective sigh. We are convinced.

All the while, I’m trying to polish off the end of David Foster Wallace’s “A Supposedly Fun Thing” essay—honing in long enough, here and there, to guffaw joyously at the “semi-agoraphobe” in him. He’s covering the Luxury Cruise experience aboard the “Nadir” megaliner, but barely leaving his room, and bingeing on Cabin Service. Last I looked back down, he had At-Sea-Cable on again, on his fifth whack at Jurassic Park, really empathizing with the raptors, trying like hell to escape all the “bovine” cruiserdom.

I’m trying to give him my undivided, but, you know, here’s the multi-ply kerfuffle I fancied I’d go out and probe. Hard not to look up; hard not to fret, or giggle. All this just seems to keep gusting along Notre-Dame, some westerly swindle. “Maybe it’s just you,” I think, to myself. “Take it easy,” I repeat.

Then “OK, let’s make some money!” blares serendipitously from someone’s VAIO—turned down in a panic, for shame. I gander it must be an endeared omen, right? I mean, what’s not to laugh at, right?

First things first: I have nothing against cured side cuts of pork. I like them. I take pleasure in eating them. I don’t care if I’m half-Jewish, half-Muslim or half-Hindu—it’s hard for me to resist their splendour amidst this Pork-Filled Nation (Québec).

bacon-wrapped-turkey

But the problem with bacon is when it hits the restaurant and we pretend it’s art. Addictively akin to cocaine, it’s a quick fix. And its wielders shouldn’t get any more credibility than a suburban drug dealer.

Bacon caters to the lazy chef. Yet, six years later, it’s all I see on menus from Montréal to Santa Fe.

Bacon was worthy, to be sure, of a brief ironic giggle circa 2007, around the time its prominence amongst respectable restauranteurs and trendsetting gastronomes (yes, you horrible blogging foodie), tempered a late-90s trend toward artificial health edibles. We wanted to smell real food again, to name its pasture, to eat closer to the ground. The sense that this might not be so death-defying after all was soon to follow.

But our bacon trend is about a half-decade past its prime.

Consider, for a moment, just how many raw ingredients are able to punch you in the mouth with salt, fat and sweetness—no effort added.

There aren’t many. I’d love to hear a shortlist of, say, more than five. The thing is, we’ve all been fleeced. Because if more existed, more chefs would be getting rich off of them.

We can all make bacon taste good. I don’t care if it’s No Name or knifed by Pied du Cochon. It takes no skill. And yet, day after day, I see up and coming chefs trumpeting their bacon dishes (or adding bacon to stupid, stupid things) as if even a teaspoon of skill were actually involved.

Trend-chasing bacon cooks: why not make me a turnip dish I will dream about? That would be something to share, post and brag to my friends about. Making turnips tantalizing takes a true culinary hero, like this one, or this one.

But until then, bacon should remain where it belongs: next to fried eggs at a hangover brunch, or as an supporting actor in more rounded, composed dishes.

Yes, I will draw some ire for this rant. I will be seen as anti-bacon, or ultra-kosher.

This, as any of my friends could tell you, is tragic. Because I’m of neither sort. Yet bacons’ brainwashees fan far and wide. They’re the same sort of “culinary” type who add pigs to ice cream, foie gras to milkshakes, or bourbon to scallops. It’s anti-culinary. And it’s not their fault. They were fleeced long before they knew what hit them.

Indeed, bacon has ridden such a long wave of taste-trending that most seem unable to recall a time before it. (Article 1: this bloggers’ self-portrait with Gordon Ramsay).

But I can tell you: it existed. And back then, chefs couldn’t so easily cop-out.


Postscript: Mad respect to Lafleur for holding out on the bacon in your poutine. Keep it real. Please. And La Banquise: no comment.

Let’s talk about Hipsters.  It seems to me that most people living in a major city know at least one person who they would  define as a Hipster. What is a Hipster, anyway? Is there really a definition? Some may say a Hipster is somebody who consistently tries too hard to be ironic, while others may insist that Hipsters are a group of pretentious and judgemental assholes. In my opinion, both definitions apply, but as a self proclaimed fashion theorist I have come to gather that Hipsters are the modern day Beatniks of our generation, who actually may have a delicate psychology behind the movement we have come to both covet and mock.

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Let us reflect on the past 14 years of fashion. As I’d mentioned last week, doesn’t it seem like we have managed to turn a full circle since the year 2004? Yes, the vintage look and influences from the past were always trendy throughout the 20th century, but up until the return of skinny jeans, pieces were all new concepts, or concepts that were deemed classic. For example, remember 2007: flip through the pages of any Vogue of that year and you’ll find skinny jeans, V neck cashmere sweaters, cropped jackets, and knee high boots with jeans tucked in. Neutral tones with vibrant neon attached. Small glasses were the norm and fashion was just… modern. It didn’t seem like anyone was trying too hard.

About one year later, I noticed a new movement had taken the generation by storm when I visited my sister in Montreal.  I thought it was bizarre how a lot of her friends had taken up an extremely simple way of living that wasn’t modern or complicated. These people looked as though they had walked out of the scenes of 1980s movies with their skinny jeans, Doc Martens, oversized and ragged knit sweaters, loose toques, and grim facial expressions as they drank whiskey from their Mason jars and listened to records in their quaint Plateau apartments when the “normal” and “expected”  was to live downtown. I was living in Halifax at the time and had noticed that none of my friends or any of their friends had felt the need to mimic this lifestyle. It was as though the thought had never occurred to them. Halifax, being a much smaller city, had citizens who were more than happy with their five appliances, Uggs paired with Lulu Lemon leggings, and breakfasts at Chez Cora every Sunday.

Bludgeoning_Irony_-_Hipster_Girls_-_SXSW_2009But the economy was crashing, the political world was going nuts, and there were lots of unsettling theories and conspiracies about our futures. Collectively, I’d say with the way shit was going down, our generation had the right to be angry with our parents. It makes sense that these kids who we called Hipsters wanted to revolt against their parents’ frivolity that had taken the world through such highs and lows on political and economical levels. What does that mean? Everything old must be new again, and let us save, save, save. Everything that is quaint is fashionable. If it looks like something you would have owned as a child, your mother, father, aunt, or uncle would have owned as a child, and an apartment your grandmother would have lived in when she was your age, it was considered cool. Thriftiness had become a trend, and the thrifty people obviously flocked together with their similar interests.

Personally, I was a little surprised when I’d noticed a couple of years later how Hipster fashion had made it through the pages of Vogue. I had never in a million years expected it to be fashionably acceptable to look like Topanga Lawrence again, or to wear Steve Urkel eyeglasses—even though my personal taste had taken to the look when I had first discovered it. On some level, I find it fishy, how easily we returned to a whole decade that had only just passed. Was it because we were simply bored of the monotonous metallic and neon colours of the futuristic 2000s? Or, were we starting to think like the Hipsters and flock back to what we used to know, before the world was complicated.

The 90s wardrobe has been the peak of Hipster fashion for the past couple of years. And whenever I wear high waisted Levi’s shorts, I feel 8 years old again, not worrying about nuclear war or whether or not we are actually living in a 1984 environment. If I feel this way, others must as well, otherwise the trend wouldn’t have taken so strongly.

IHipster_med_öl really don’t think the movement was intended to turn into a huge trend. I feel that the image the Hipster generation was initially trying to convey was one of simplicity that had spun out of control.But when we think about the concept of everything old being new again, is it possible that we are clinging to the familiar because we are afraid of the future?

It is an interesting concept to think about next time you’re at a quaint cafe where the room is glittered with people dressed in clothes that are inspired by decades throughout the 20th century but everyone is on their smart phone or laptops. With that image, I always think: If someone were to teleport themselves from the 1960s, they would be extremely confused. On the other hand, I’m glad we’re not dressed in robot garb yet, and we can have fun with clothes from the decades we had missed out on.