Hairy situation

Author/s: Benjamin Palme
Posted: 17 June 2020

HAIRY SITUATION  

Beard recognition, the ästhetics of beards and its history.

As part of the course AI, I trained a teachable machine to recognize and categorise different beard styles. The world of beards is an phenomen with increasing significance in our society. Especially due to a growing beard-beauty-industry branch a hole culture of beards was rediscovert. A culture that is closely linked with the history of male identity. Therfore i decided to devote my project to the world of beards and added some thought on it. At the end you can try out the programm yourself! (for that, you might have to give the browser the permissen to turn on the camera.)

Types of beards:

Full Beard

Franz Joseph

The Hulk Hogan

The Chevron

The Gillette - clean shaven

(Note: for all of the hole beard list vistit: https://www.baldingbeards.com/facial-hair-styles/)

By looking at the different names of these beards we discover interesting aspects:

The Full Beard, that is also sometimes called the lumberjack beard, it stood for people, that placed themself (or got placed) outside of society, such as hermits, artists, philosophers and also revolutionaries.

The Franz Joseph beard was used as an imperial sign that, at same time, showed a connection to peasants.

The Chevron beard, that also is the name for badges of rank, has been linked to the military and the police. A Moustache was reserved for the Generals and the commoners were not allowed to wear them. Similar laws retained till 1916 and even the present day at least the term copstache survived.

Hulk Hogan is an american wrestler and can be seen as a representation of an american identity. Here I cannot say more than link his themesong and add these pictures:

The Gillette marks an social turning point. By 1901 inventing the safety razor, followed by one of the first mass-marketing campaign, the clean-shaven look heralded the modern civilized and shaved man. This new identification also had the purpose to set oneself apart from "the orient" (like the figure of lawrence of arabia) or "africa" and the "barbaric nature" (like Tarzan, the master of the jungle). For both it is from importance to be shaved in the most inhospitable environment.


Of course there are more examples of beard styles and their political value than mentioned in this project. An example would be Abraham Lincoln, who wore a full beard without a moustache to place himself in the tradition of priests rather than the military, or other wilder beard styles like in the hippie beard or a Che Guevara beard that rejected the clean-shaven modern Gillette look, to mention some.

The beard as a political framework:

The best example of the beards as an political field of expression is found in the aftermath of the french revolution. The type of the beard worn in France increasingly signaled the political views of its wearer: while conservative royalists were shaved, Republicans wore sideburns and a small chin beard. Moderate Republicans, on the other hand, went without the chin beard. Anyone who wore a mustache indicated that they were still supporters of Napoleon. Liberals who stood politically between moderate Republicans and conservatives preferred the mustache. The full beard remained limited to artists and political outsiders. Beards were part of politics.

Eugène Delacroix: Liberty Leading the People 1830 (source: Wikipedia)

One could say now, that the world of beards is a contested political field, that enables different political symbolisations, identifications and expression. Therefore beards should be seen as part of the political landscape. A focus on "ästhetics of beards" would then be something desirable, as much as this projekt.

Should the beard be made political again?

The Beard as a political strategy for marginalisation:

The problem with this "ästhetics of beards" is: it categorically excludes the majority of people. The programm only counts you through a lense of beards. Centered on man, having a beard is made a paradigm and the norm (In this project I exaggerated it even more by just taking me as the norm) Therefore in this specific framework all the others have been made invisible. The ones who have no beards and cannot grow one or  even the ones that have a beard, but not the programmed beard or skin color. This is an example of an excluding distribution of the sensible. The others are excluded. They cannot participate in the political sphere.  Their struggle is invisible.

Like in the aftermath of the french revolution aesthetics and systems of representation were constructed that ensure a persistence of a patriarchal order and to force women into the private sphere.

With the accomplishments of the feminist and the queer struggle and events, like a Conchita Wurst, the concept of beards was sufficient deconstructed to make us realize this contingency. For example a "woman" with a beard, by performing her body,  scandalizes the regime of manly beards.

This illustrates a problem with Artificial Intelligence. We can train an AI. It can learn for itself, automatize. But always just in the limits of the input’s previous framework. A biased artificial intelligence will not just carry on the injustice, but will also multiply it.

The resume of my project:

It sucks.

Although it was fun creating and shaving in different styles, this programm itself sucks. It cannot be applied to a large number of participants: the ones without beard, the ones with an other skin or beard colour.  It was fed exclusively with the data of the classical standard model: the white dude (this time with a beard!) . And it can, as a consequence, only see, recognize and be applied in this specific framework. This shows us the systematic problem of Artificial Intelligence.

(Note: out of feasability I excluded religious motivated beards and focused on the "western" tradition of beards. Especially in the religious context there is also a long beard tradition and even commandmants to wear beards, as for example in the koran or the chirstian-orthodox church. The arguments i bring up in context of the "western" beard (excluding, building up a patriachal ästhetic, etc.) are also applicable to these other contexts.)

The programm:

Now you can try the programm out and categorise yourself right here:

Note that the program usually needs a couple of seconds to start. Try to use a white(ish) shirt while for the best result and put your hair in the back (otherwise the programm think you have a giant moustache on your head). You can also put in pictures there. Black/White pictures do not work.  At the end of the Page you find some pictures you can use. Just drag them into the black square right here:

In case it did not work, i added the external link here: https://teachablemachine.withgoogle.com/models/ZwtaJmb72/

Some Pictures for trying out the project:

Literature:

Oldstone-Moore, Christopher. Of beards and men: the revealing history of facial hair. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press 2015.

Hrovatin, Domen, 68 Best Facial Hair Styles for Men You Should Try At Least Once. https://www.baldingbeards.com/facial-hair-styles/ (17.6.2020).      

Rekabsaz, Navid; Schedl, Markus. “Do Neural Ranking Models Intensify Gender Bias?” ArXiv abs/2005.00372 (2020): n. pag.