Politicians sometimes wear them, and so do a few chief executives. Urban hipsters have become synonymous with them, yet rugged outdoorsmen have been sporting them for years.
Beards — having become so popular that they've even had an annual movement ("no shave November," now more or less a year-round display) named after them — are part of a growing category of the male grooming market, which sees more than $6 billion in sales annually, according to Euromonitor data.
The slow decline of clean-shaven faces has given rise to a new male archetype, one that's becoming a coveted market demographic in its own right and spurring the rise of small businesses that cater to pampering hairy faces.
The phenomenon is easy to spot on social media, with Instagram and Twitter posts exploding with hirsute hashtags like "#beardgang" and "beardgods" praising those with well-groomed beards — and mocking those without them. Surf those terms and you'll likely discover a host of self-styled 'beard models' — and thousands of ardent admirers.
"The idea of male beauty went from the all-American guy to a more natural, romantic look; hair on the body," Philip Fimmano, a style expert with Studio Edelkoort, a trend forecasting company, told CNBC in a recent interview.
The more rugged looking male is in fact "very sensitive, and not afraid of taking care of his appearance," Fimmano said. Believe it or not, that's not a contradiction in terms, he added.
"Although beards may look unruly to those who don't have them, it actually requires a lot of grooming," Fimmano said.