Sunday, July 15, 2012

On hairy men in fiction

Nowadays, there's a trend in fiction to make men fairly hairless, which matches the (rather long standing) trend in the fashion industry. To some degree this is a shame as a hairy man can be seen as man's man. There are images and impressions related to the hairy man that reflect our expectations of a hairy man's character. Such expectations have become stereotypes and as such can be used as a tool in characterisation or even a plot device for a story.

The hairy man often denotes roughness, a lack of personal care, brutishness, animalistic appeal, forcefulness and a mind uncaring of appearances. A man reduced by circumstance to act desperately often grows a beard through negligence, implying he's given up on the sophisticated for pure survivalism. Tending to one's hair is seen as not necessary for survival (this is incorrect if you spend large amounts of time in the wild as there are plenty of bugs who'd love a hairy hideout).

But not all hairy men disregard their hair. There are some who carefully tend their beards and moustaches and through this an opposing impression, now stereotype, comes into play. It is of a man pushing past all of the above to achieve inner refinement reflective of the greatest of human civilisation. 

But for me, some of the best hairy characters reflect humanity's highest sophistication and rational thought as well as our basest human or animalistic drives simply through the careful application of hair and its usage not only as a tool in characterisation but also as a plot device.

And if animalistic is pushing it too far for some characters then earthiness is sometimes used as the reference instead. A man grounded and realistic is a man appearing naturally hairy. When set in rough scenery that's being tamed, farms for example, he is in his element and signifies the human connection to nature as well as the endless battle between human control and natures wildness. A sometime peaceful, sometimes chaotic battle, both of which can be reflected in the state of a man's hair. A fraught hairy man ruffles and pulls his hair while a calm one pets it absently.

All this is lost simply by shaving a man or creating relatively hairless characters. And in some cases the impressions hair can create are needed to complete a character's personality. Hairlessness isn't always appealing and obsession with the state of one's hair can be a turn off. But more on the hairless man another time as this post is for the hairy.

So here are some of the bet hairy men in fiction, although not all are men per se. Instead, they just appear as hairy men.

The Wolfman


Cousin It

The Beast from Beauty And The Beast


All Hobbits

Captain Haddock

Rip Van Winkle

Captain Hook

Captain Caveman

Yosemite Sam

Papa Smurf

Groundskeeper Willie

The seven dwarves (sometimes beardless but mostly bearded).

Hagar the Horrible

Jack Sparrow

Pai Mei

Obi Wan Kenobi

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