Embrace the Beard: Philadelphia’s Beard Culture Puts the ‘Man’ in ‘Manifest’
As a proud Philadelphian, I’ve made it somewhat of a task to myself to represent. From my writing voice to my choice of where to get the perfect cheesesteak, the city of Philly has made me the Black man that I am today. And one thing that I always felt embodied the Philadelphia “man’s man” was his beard. With the city being host to immense Islamic community, men of all ages and religions would grow their facial hair out to embody the highly recognizable Philly beard. For EBONY.com’s Manifest initiative, I wanted to speak with one of the fellow creatives of my city who also felt the need to highlight the Philly beard and what makes it such a cultural staple.
Meet Curran J Swint, owner of Kings Rule Together, a clothing line that preaches the positivity of supporting your fellow king (and queen) as much as supporting your fellow entrepreneur. I had a chance to sit and talk with Swint to discuss the importance of his partnership with the city’s tourism boards, Philly 360 and Visit Philadelphia, and a visual production entitled The Bearded Bunch.
EBONY: What brought this video highlighting the Philadelphia man and his beards to fruition?
Curran J: I always wanted to do a fashion spread highlighting men with beards, and I knew so many stylish guys from Philadelphia that had beards. But I wanted to present it with a more artistic platform. When the time presented itself with Visit Philadelphia, I thought it would be ideal to show off this new beard phenomenon gracing the faces of many men in our city.
EBONY: As a man of Islamic faith and a Philadelphia native, how do you think beards have been inserted into popular culture, especially in Black men?
CJ: Within the Islamic faith, the beard is mandatory for the men. I think up until a few years ago, it was a true stereotype that if a man is Black and has a beard, he is Muslim, especially in Philly. But the world is becoming such a more cultured, diverse and ethnic place because of popular culture, and I think Philadelphia is at the epicenter of that change and integration.
Beards are not just worn by the Black Muslim man. All religions, races and backgrounds wear them. I think it’s dope to see a Caucasian male or Latino man striding along the pavements of Rittenhouse Square rocking a beard. It makes me feel like we as a nation are growing together and becoming united under one common thread.
EBONY: How do you feel your beard affects your professional career?
CJ: I think it adds character and enhances my look. It gives me a more polished and distinct look. People sense my professionalism by both how I’m dressed and how I’m groomed.
EBONY: Where do you see the beard trend heading in the near and not-so-near future?
CJ: Well, the beard is most definitely a trend now, but I think it’s because of how much women are appreciating a masculine man with a full-out beard. Women love the beard, and men want to be loved by women, so I think it’ll just get more popular with time. I also think right now the beard is mainly popular amongst Black men and hippie, eclectic Caucasian beatnik-type males. But I see it becoming not just a stray from the norm, but a classic and elegant fashion statement. Almost all the prominent male members of society, government and science had beards in the early days. I say that to say, I see the beard not just being the signature of a Muslim or Orthodox Jew, but symbol of power, quality and fashionable individuality.
EBONY: How does your beard define you as a man in today’s world?
CJ: Aside from it being a representation of my religious beliefs, I think it has become a signature to my look. People know me for having a full beard, glasses and De La Soul-sequel hair. It provides me with a sense of strength and pride, reminds me of where I come from, and allows me to see where I’m going.
Cory Townes was born and raised in Philadelphia, and currently lives in Brooklyn. A devout Philly sports fan, Townes is the Social Media Manager for EBONY.com. When he’s not planning his cheering on his Philadelphia Eagles or creating musical playlists for the people, you can reach him on Twitter @CoryTownes.