Brooklyn Beard.

I’m trying to catch up with last week’s New Yorker before the new one arrives, and in the middle of Nick Paumgarten’s “Life Is Rescues” (a fascinating piece that I recommend, especially if you’re into tales of icy peril) I hit this sentence: “The youngest was twenty-three: Halli, a gentle bear of a man with a big Brooklyn beard, who’d joined up because of the cars.” Now, I’m familiar with both Brooklyn and beards, but the phrase meant nothing to me. So I googled, and got nothing relevant except — aha! — “The Brooklyn Beard Goes Mainstream,” a New York Times piece from January 2014 that — alas — turns out to reference beards as a Brooklyn phenomenon (“Beards, as common as ever on the streets of Brooklyn, have shed their underground connotations”) but not a particular Brooklyn style. An image search shows a wild variety of beards, from barely visible fuzz to some truly striking specimens. So what I want to know is, does the phrase “Brooklyn beard” mean anything specific to you? For extra credit: if it turns out not to mean anything in particular, what has happened to editing standards at the New Yorker?


  1. In context it means that it’s a well-trimmed full beard paired with glasses and a plaid shirt on a somewhat heavy-set man. However, you really need the rest of the sentence to deduce that.

  2. To me, a Brooklyn beard means a long, full beard, the sort of beard that until a few years ago you didn’t see except on jihadis, chasids, and Amish farmers – not a Van Dyke, or a goatee, or a soul patch, or a Hollywood three-day stubble, but a luxuriant, shapely thicket of facial hair.

  3. For my stereotypical Amish farmer the important thing isn’t the size of the beard but the absence of a mustache to go with it.

  4. Bob Gillham says

    From context I’d presume a “hipster” beard Amish long with short smart haircut or *gag* a man bun!

  5. Bob Gillham says

    I had a photo for you but can’t put it here..

  6. To me, a Brooklyn beard means a long, full beard

    Ah, OK, it’s a thing then. It’s not the editors, it’s me being (as usual) out of touch. Thanks!

  7. I see it’s already been answered so i will just mention the Igbo lab tech i had recently who had a thick beard and a small non-connecting moustache. “Im not Muslim, I’m trendy,” he said.

  8. I’ve never heard the term before, but it immediately made sense to me as a full, well-groomed beard. I live in alternately in Long Island and Jersey City.

  9. Is the Brooklyn beard a particular instance of the hipster beard, or is it intended to convey that the wearer has put hipsterdom behind him and is part of the post-hipster class?

    On second thoughts, don’t tell me, I don’t really want to know.

  10. For me, the words Brooklyn and beard have mental associations with hipsters so the phrase “Brooklyn beard” just serves to give an overall impression of the guy fitting certain hipster stereotypes.

    One of my guilty pleasures (besides reading Languagehat) is reading menswear blogs and I haven’t come across “Brooklyn beard” as a specific style of beard yet ( but maybe I’m not hip enough to be reading the right blogs.)

  11. The descriptions certainly match that of my Brooklyn-abiding son.

  12. J. W. Brewer says

    It is fwiw plausibly still the case that there are more Hasidim than hipsters resident in Brooklyn in absolute numbers, although given differentials in fertility rates a higher percentage of the Hasidic male population is too young to grow a beard.

  13. ‘Brooklyn’ as an adjective has become a journalistic shortcut. If you want to give your readers a smug sense of superiority label someone or something as ‘Brooklyn’- Brooklyn coffe house, Brooklyn restaurant, Brooklyn band- and your work is done. Everyone shares a collective wink and nod and ‘knows what you mean’. Or at least knows that you’re dismissing it as trendy and should feel good that they are not silly like that. It’s a vague little pejorative. Ask 20 people and you’ll get 20 different descriptions. But they’ll all agree it’s something to be mocked.
    Years ago, I would here older residents of Williamsburg refer to the Brooklyn Beardies or GQ lumberjacks.

  14. J. W. Brewer says

    I think “Brooklyn” as sort a stereotypical shortcut has been out there for a long time; it’s just that the stereotypes have changed; it’s a very different referent even if in the same geographical location. So when I was a kid in the ’70’s, Brooklyn evoked the social types seen in Welcome Back Kotter, and there were lots of intermediate steps between that and modern Hipsterdom. I’m not prepared to offer a full exegesis of what it signifies in the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep Til Brooklyn”* (recorded 1986, released 1987), but at least part of what’s going on is that the only Brooklyn-raised member of the group (the late Adam “MCA” Yauch) was trying to convey that he was more authentic/rough-and-tumble/etc on account of having grown up there than the typical Manhattan-residing proto-hipster of the day would be.

    *Further complication is that the title as a whole was (to those of us in the know . . .) an obvious allusion to the Motorhead album titled “No Sleep Til Hammersmith,” but a sufficiently playful one that it was pretty clearly not trying to set up an analogy either that Hammersmith was the Brooklyn of London or that Brooklyn was the Hammersmith of NYC.

  15. The Ob’ is the Platte of Russia, and the Platte is the Ob’ of the U.S.

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