If nothing else, 2016 was the year of the beard, with facial hair acceptance growing by leaps and bounds not only here at home, but all over the nation as well. Beards have made the comeback to an en vogue fashion accessory that accentuates masculinity to boot. It is, in essence, the last bastion of manhood.
Philly, for its part, has taken notice. We're so bearded that we even have our own "Philly Beard" style that plays off the Muslim roots of the traditional Muslim Sunnah beard.
The Sunnah Beard is the story of one such beard, which is worn by many of Philadelphia's Muslim converts, and is a prominent feature of chins, cheeks, and jowls throughout town.
The long beard, short trousers and scarves have become a very popular trend. Local men have even named the style of beard a “Philly beard” or a “Sunni” - after the Islamic term Sunnah referring to the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad.
Facial hair gives men the opportunity to express themselves and to “accessorize” in ways they might not be able to otherwise. It’s a statement about who they are and how they want to be perceived by others.
Search the term “beard” in Google Trends, and you will soon discover that queries related to beards have been seeing a fairly steady climb from 2011 onwards. Barber Mark Lightfoot, owner of the Philadelphia Hair Co., said the trend has been growing in popularity with non-Muslims since the mid-’90s. “It probably started out as a fad, but it’s not dying down.”
An even faster growing trend is the term “beard styles”, which has also been on a major growth curve. There are clearly more men looking into how to wear their beards than ever before - and looking at the pictures in the search results, there aren’t too many “styles” that should scare you away.
In the US state of Philadelphia, Muslim fashion is making a huge impression on men even if they are not Muslim. Philadelphia is known as "the city of brotherly love" and these brothas' love their beards.
The beard has a special significance in Philadelphia culture and it is unlike any other city in America. In Philadelphia the beard is an expression of individuality, religious observance and civic pride.
"That's what God gave us, hair on the face," said Leroy Robinson Jr., a barber at New Identity Barbershop who has been cutting heads and beards in Philadelphia for 33 years. Each man possesses the capability to grow a beard, and for each man, there is a reason motivating his choice to grow or to shave, to groom, trim or leave alone.
The styles on display on the streets of Philadelphia today point to a rich cultural past — bowties and skullcaps, rolled-up calf-length pants, niqabs (face veils), izaars (kiltlike garments) worn over jeans, long T-shirts doubling as thobes and, of course, the beards.
Whatever you call it, the Islamic-style aesthetic has been around for a while, and the beard in particular – often referred to as a “Philly beard” or a “Sunni” – has come to be identified with the City of Brotherly Love. My friend Anthony Henderson, the fashion stylist who divides his time between Philly and Los Angeles, makes a point of wearing it because of hometown pride.
“I can go to a corner store in Crenshaw or in Watts and people will say, ‘You’re from Philly,’ ” Henderson said. “And if I have to go to a new barber here in Los Angeles, I say, ‘I need a Philly beard.’ They automatically know what it is.