Beards are mysterious, polarising and infinitely varied. Since allowing one to erupt on my dial, I’ve pondered its meaning… and also discovered that a bit of maintenance is required to prevent it from feeling like seaweed and smelling like a teenager’s sock.

Why did I grow a beard? It’s a question I’m asked repeatedly by my mother, usually while she’s scowling and holding a pair of pruning shears menacingly in her dominant hand.

Truth is, I don’t know. I guess every man is curious to see what he looks like bewhiskered. Pure vanity. Or perhaps I’m responding to a more visceral urge.

Experts are divided on the exact purpose of a man’s beard. Some reckon it provides warmth. Others assert that a luxuriant beard, like a lion’s mane, signals alpha reproductive status to potential partners and warns lesser suitors to retreat to the model train set in their mother’s basement. Still others reckon a whiskery jaw was designed to cushion the blows of assailants in the treacherous milieu of Stone Age existence.

These days, of course, whiskers are a key component of a gentleman’s fashion toolkit. They make a bold and unmissable statement.

Responses to my beard have been, well, mixed. Mrs Blackwell (my dear wife, not – as I’ve alluded to above – my mother) loves it, but she is delightfully biased. Children and small-to-medium-sized dogs are a little frightened by it. Blackbirds gaze upon it wistfully during nesting season. 

Most men realise their efforts in facial horticulture will draw opinions from far left and right. But darn it, we grow our beards anyway. We’re proud of them and nurture them, kind of like our pet or our front lawn.

And that’s not a bad analogy. Because, like a lawn, a good beard needs tending. Otherwise, it will turn into a tangled and uneven jungle of detritus and unwanted interlopers.

Thank goodness for Duke Cannon. Those guys offer beard-taming concoctions and other gentleman’s grooming products that are unbelievably good. Duke Cannon products are invented by proudly bewhiskered men, for proudly bewhiskered men. They know their Van Dykes from their Mutton Chops.

So, go forth and sprout, men of this land. Don’t ask why, just wear it your way, own it, and tame it!