To paraphrase late-90s hitmakers LFO: Summer beards come and summer beards go, some are worthwhile and some are so-so.
The summer of 2017-18 has been rife with speculation and chatter over which previously fresh-faced New Zealand politicians or television personalities have grown a summer beard. These are people who, like many working professionals, are precluded from experimenting with their facial hair during the year by jobs which call for a certain level of grooming. When they take a couple of weeks annual leave over Christmas and New Year, this all goes out the window.
Nothing signals that you’ve successfully broken free from the grind of daily routine and are enjoying some well-deserved rest and relaxation more effectively than a summer beard. When photos of familiar faces adorned with unfamiliar hair filter through during the first weeks of January, we all absorb the calm and contentedness they radiate.
Now that the country is mostly back at work and the beards of summer are gone, it’s time to pay tribute to them the only way we know how: by arbitrarily ranking them. Before we begin, let’s be very clear: by definition, there is no such thing as a ‘bad’ summer beard, and this is not a forum for beardshaming. Having said that, some summer beards are better than others.
1. James Shaw
There’s a reason this has been the most talked-about beard of the summer. It’s a head-turner, a beard that has made everybody look at the Greens co-leader in a whole new light. It does all this while remaining understated – there’s nothing flashy going on here, but it’s right in the sweet spot of tidy but not too tidy. News that James Shaw has since had a shave has only cemented this as one of the classic summer beards.
2. Simon Dallow
The One News newsreader was initially disqualified from these rankings pending further investigation into a stunning goatee that seemed too good to be true. It was sighted it in a video posted to the One News website on Friday afternoon, right as the official summer beard window was coming to a close. It looked so good that it raised suspicions it was in fact a permanent fixture on Dallow’s face. But by Monday’s six o’clock bulletin, the goatee was gone – confirming its status as a truly outstanding summer beard.
3. Eric Young
While the rest of New Zealand’s celebrity summer beard growers have been enjoying surf, sand and sun, Prime News anchor Eric Young has been recovering from open-heart surgery. But this is no mere sympathy ranking – Young has cultivated an admirably authentic summer beard over the last six weeks. Respect is also due for the striking two-tone (can we call it ‘ombre’) colouring.
4. Andrew Little
There is more than one criteria we can use to judge a summer beard. If we were to judge solely on a mathematical equation of how much cooler than normal it makes the wearer look, the former Labour leader could well have topped this list. It’s amazing how far a little stubble and a mint Blackcaps hat can take you – Little should seriously consider making this a signature look.
5. Simon Bridges
“I like it and may keep it,” the National transport man wrote on Twitter of his new facial hair. Who can blame him? This is an undeniably handsome beard. The only reason for the low ranking is that he’s obviously been trimming it – an act of vanity that goes against the very spirit of the summer beard.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Jack Tame
This textbook summer beard belonging to Breakfast host Jack Tame was regrettably overlooked in the original rankings. It probably would have come in around #3.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Tom McRae
Not to be outdone by his network news rival, Newshub’s Tom McRae also submitted a late contender for beard of the summer, including a bonus last-minute experimental goatee. Despite giving McRae the kind of authoritative, no-nonsense look the 6 o’clock bulletin is asking for, it met the fate of many summer beards before it: “The powers that be vetoed it very quickly,” revealed the freshly-shaven newsreader.
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