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To beard or not to beard is the haute topic in Paris.

Byline: Emma Johnson

EARDS. They are everywhere you bloomin' look these days.

BFrom the tattooed twentysomething in his skinny jeans who serves you your frappuccino in the trendy coffee shop to your dentist, it's starting to feel as though most of the male population has had it with shaving.

It is hard to say when the Great Beard Revolution took place exactly. Enthusiasts would probably cite the 2012 Oscars and the face fuzz sported by A-listers such as Ben Affleck and George Clooney as a defining moment.

Whatever the catalyst, in the past 12 months beards have exploded to the extent that at the beginning of this year, the British boss behind the King Of Shaves razors claimed the trend was having a negative effect on his business.

While I wouldn't go so far as to say I suffer from pogonophobia (an irrational fear of beards), I am not really down with the things.

Beckham's is nice, Jared Leto's brings a bit of masculinity to one of Hollywood's prettiest faces, but, for me, beards are up there with Agas.

They are cool and trendy but I wouldn't want one in my house.

Just as the red soles of Christian Louboutin shoes allow even the most non-style savvy of women to give the impression that they are au fait with high fashion, so beards have become a short cut to trendiness for blokes who wouldn't know their Raf Simons from their Ralph Fiennes.

In fact, so ubiquitous are they that in April this year scientists declared we have reached "peak beard" - a point at which the more beards there are, the less attractive they become.

"The idea is that perhaps people start copying the George Clooneys and the Joaquin Phoenixes and start wearing those beards," said Professor Rob Brooks, one of the study's authors, "but then when more and more people get onto the bandwagon the value of being on the bandwagon diminishes."

While I have become accustomed to seeing beards as I go about my daily business, from the well-kept chin strip to the full-on shaggy sea captain look, one place I never expected to find one is on the runway at Couture Week.

Not wearing a ballgown anyway.

But that's what guests at Jean Paul Gaultier's show got when he sent bearded lady Conchita Wurst, pictured, down the catwalk in Paris this week.

Austria's Eurovision Song Contest winner was even given the prestigious finale spot, gliding out in a black tulle affair complete with headdress.

The French designer announced afterwards: "I always say that beauty is difference and Conchita has shown us all that she is unstoppable. She looks great in couture; she is a real couture woman."

Fair comment Jean Paul (or should that be fur comment?) and anyway, a bearded lady isn't even the strangest thing we have seen in couture fashion, where dresses can cost more than classic cars and can be even harder to look after.

Still, just like the frocks that Gaultier and his pals make in their ateliers, Conchita's rather unique look isn't something I see myself buying into any time soon.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 12, 2014
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