Saving Face: Courage and Righteousness in the Era of the Sideburn–Part I

By Rev. Daniel J. Fitzpatrick

We all grew up believing our male role models were invincible. Superman deflected bullets with his chest, Dad was the toughest guy in town, and President Kennedy’s head seemed to never explode. Callous reality, however, soon swept away the fog of precious childhood naiveté. These heroes and legends of our youth were tragically human, prone to the same caprice, doubt, and dishonesty indigenous to the human condition. Still, a brave few stepped forward to redeem the ideals of a disillusioned society. Each member of the brotherhood shared a common mark, binding them to the cause. Like animals, they were branded, though their burns did not originate from the unholy fire. These burns grew from hair on the side of the face and, through a process of complex linguistic evolution, became known as “sideburns,” a Latin phrase meaning “phallic supremacy.”

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Above: General Ambrose Burnside, credited as the Father of Sideburns. His body produced such an extraordinary amount of testosterone that the excess hormone sprouted from the edges of his sideburns and joined at a point above the upper lip, resembling a handsome mustache.

     Virtuous men everywhere carried on the sideburns’ legacy. Their love for this facial hair united the rich with the poor, and the cavaliers with the rebels. Victorian gentlemen, rock ‘n’ rollers, rednecks, and Civil War reenactors all wore the crest of raw masculinity throughout their days, living and dying by the buzz from the fuzz.

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Above: A proud heritage. The glaze in his eyes indicates a bright future ahead.

     People say first impressions are everything. What does one notice when he first meets a side-burned man? Surely good posture, a polite disposition, and a pleasant musk are among the most popular answers. (To the inconsiderate survey-taker who answered “buttface,” I will find you). Because the perception of others inevitably shapes our identities, we cannot risk an ambiguous feature, perhaps an unsightly mole, compromising the integrity of selfhood. Sideburns leave no room for error and show the wearer for what he truly is–either a “musician,” college professor, or an extra from Deliverance.

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(You’ll know to squeal like a pig right away.)

     Unfortunately, just as the ends of the noble sideburns must never merge to form a beard, the entirety of this article cannot be contained in a single post. Check back soon for the thrilling account the author’s personal sideburn experience, as well as commentary on some of history’s greatest wearers. Goodbye, and may your cheeks never be cold.

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