Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Don Johnson and the Age of Stubble


Johnson in Miami Vice days

It’s fascinating to study fads and fashions of different eras. We can look back and smile at the mullet hairstyles of the 1970s, the love beads of the 1960s or the poodle skirts of the 1950s. It was in the 1980s that actor Don Johnson became the poster boy for stubble. In his role as Sonny Crockett on the wildly popular television series Miami Vice (1984-1989), Don wore nifty pastel-coloured outfits and a constant five o’clock shadow.

In the spring of 1986, an electric razor called the Stubble Device became available that allowed users to shave while maintaining permanent facial scruff. The shaver was produced by the Wahl Clipper Corp. of Sterling, Illinois in the hopes of cashing in on the popularity of the Miami Vice detective. It sold for the price of $29.95 and was originally known as the Miami Device. The company changed the name because it feared a copyright infringement lawsuit from the producers of Miami Vice.

Stubble used to have quite an unsavoury connotation. It was always associated with pirates and convicts. In old movies, the only men with facial stubble were criminals or sea captains. For his Academy Award-winning role as the hard-nosed gin-drinking river boat captain in the 1951 movie The African Queen, Humphrey Bogart sported stubble.

Bogart with Katharine Hepbun in The African Queen

When Richard Nixon debated John F. Kennedy on television during the 1960 U.S. presidential election campaign, Nixon was hampered by his dark five o’clock shadow. Those listening to the debate on the radio expressed a more favourable impression of him than those tuning in on television. Today it seems the attitude toward facial scruff has changed dramatically. Many women, not including myself, find stubble attractive. I just find it, well ... scruffy. Not only that, but it pinches.

Many men believe that scruff makes them look tough and manly. It also gives them a convenient excuse not to shave as often. I see very few clean-shaven professional athletes these days. Most sport chin beards, goatees or some form of scruff. The world has sure changes since former Toronto Maple Leafs’ goaltender, Bruce Gamble, caused a stir with his long sideburns. Coach Punch Imlach made it clear that he was not pleased with the sideburns. If he were alive today, Imlach would be appalled that NHL players grow playoff beards and some resemble lumberjacks.

Bruce Gamble (with sideburns) in goal against Bobby Hull and the Chicago Blackhawks

Stubble lovers face a problem when their facial hair turns grey, as 61 year-old Don Johnson’s has. You can colour a beard with Just for Men, but can you colour stubble?


As usual, on Tuesdays, Number 16 presents a list of ten palindromes.

1. refer

2. Sit on a potato pan, Otis.

3. Lee had a heel.

4. Norma is as selfless as I am, Ron.

5. Gateman sees name, garageman sees name tag.

6. Dee saw a seed.

7. I saw desserts; I’d no lemons; alas, no melon. Distressed was I.

8. Sleep on no peels.

9. Stella won no wallets.

10. Bird rib. 

- Joanne