Yes, beards can be the way to a woman's heart
Kerry McKittrick talks to men with a hirsute look and asks their partners what they think
When Newsnight's Jeremy Paxman fronted the show last week it took just minutes for a Twitter storm to erupt.
Not an unusual occurrence for the BBC's flagship current affairs programme. However the topic wasn't the latest economic doom and gloom or some debate over a government policy.
No, this furore was because Newsnight's acerbic anchor was sporting a new beard.
Hashtags such as beardyman, beard and beardgate sprang up instantly and viewers started to complain about Paxman's new whiskers.
Paxman's hirsute appearance made headlines in many of the popular tabloids and also online. Paxman revealed that he had grown the beard during Newsnight's summer hiatus but this year decided not to shave it off. He hit back at detractors saying, "I may keep it or I may shave it off, but I think I'll make my own decision."
The storm in the media teacup has continued to grow as other BBC presenters have come forward with tales of their beards. Ben Fogle, newsreader Michael Buerk and Robin Lustig, the former presenter of Radio Four's World Tonight programme, have all told tales of being ordered to go under the razor.
As the pogonophobes – that's people with a phobia of beards – continue their rant, we talk to three hirsute men and their supportive partners about life with a beard.
He says: 'My beard depends on my mood'
Tristan McCorry (27) is a civil servant and lives in Belfast with his girlfriend Tamsin Mailey.
My beard just sort of happened by accident. I would have let my stubble grow every now and again but I always shaved it off.
Then, one Christmas about three years ago, I just let it grow while I was off work. When I shaved it off after the holidays I discovered I missed it so I decided to properly grow a beard.
It does itch when you first start and you need to maintain it – they don't grow evenly so you need to trim. If you don't your beard will be all over the place and you will get some funny looks. I've had it quite long and quite short, it just depends on my mood.
I trim mine, shave my neck and wash it in the shower. I throw a bit of conditioner in to make it soft. You need to wash it, for like everything else it can get very smelly, particularly after a night out.
The only person who doesn't like my beard is my dad. He keeps making suggestions that I should shave it off. I've never had anyone at work tell me that it needs to go but when I first grew it long I did get a few funny looks. These days I tend to keep it trimmed and tidy."
She says: 'I seem to prefer a scruffy look'
Tamsin Maily (28) works in recruitment
When I first met Tristan he had very short hair and was very clean shaven. He would shave every day but at weekends he would let it go for a couple of days and grow stubble and I thought he looked better.
I think it goes back to liking boys in bands. I seem to prefer the scruffy look.
Eventually I persuaded Tristan to stop shaving, so I take full credit for the beard.
It has been quite long and scruffy but now he keeps it quite well trimmed. It's actually easier on me because when he had stubble my face would be red raw. When the hair is longer, though, it is quite soft and doesn't scratch.
Beards are more acceptable than they were a couple of years ago. I remember being at university and the boys who had beards were considered dirty. These days they're acceptable enough even if Jeremy Paxman has grown one.
People ask Tristan to shave off the beard all the time; his dad and his friends in particular. I say no, we're keeping the beard – it was my idea after all.
He says: 'I doubt I'll ever shave mine off'
Kevin Carter (31) is a stay at home dad. He lives in Banbridge with his wife Emma and their children Melissa (3) and Olivia (4).
I stopped shaving when I was 15. At the time I was working in a high-class restaurant and not shaving was my little way to rebel against the management. I don't think they were too happy but there wasn't anything they could do. My parents weren't too happy either but the school didn't mind. It just stuck and I've kept it ever since.
Mine is a full beard but I don't have a moustache with it. I'm quite a big guy and very hands on with my kids so when we go to playgrounds and toddlers groups you can see me getting some strange looks from the mums. People don't quite know what to make of me.
I don't wash my beard specifically – when I wash my face it gets washed then. I know you can get special beard shampoo but that's not for me. Beards grow unevenly so you have to trim them. I just use a hair trimmer and give myself a number two or three twice a week or so.
I doubt I'll ever shave my beard. There's a Norwegian proverb that says only two types of people don't have beards – women and children.
I'm not worried about going grey like Jeremy Paxman. I have a few grey hairs in my temples but although I have dark hair my beard is ginger."
She says:'Older men look distinguished'
Emma Carter (33) is a customer service representative.
Kevin and I have been together for eight years and I've never seen him without his beard – I don't think I would want to. I think the beard suits him and makes him look more individual.
I've always liked men with beards – my dad has a beard too so I've been used to them forever. Kevin's can sometimes hurt my face but you get over that so it's not a big deal. My mum always asks could he not shave it off but I shoot that down straight away.
I like Jeremy Paxman's beard. I think a beard can make an older man look distinguished so I don't see what the fuss is about him having one. He keeps it trimmed and tidy so why not."
He says: 'They're in fashion'
Robert Trebor (23) works in finance and lives in Belfast with his girlfriend Susan Lyle.
I started growing a beard when I was 18. I've had as many stages of facial hair as you can imagine; the goatee, mutton chops and of course the full beard, which is what I have now.
I chiefly keep my beard to hide my lack of chin. I think most people don't mind because of that.
My mum minds only when it gets too long and scruffy but usually I use a beard trimmer to keep it neat.
People tend to think I'm older because of the beard.
They're definitely coming back into fashion with bands like Mumford And Sons and Kings Of Leon growing theirs out. Others just go for a stylish stubble.
She says: 'It's manly'
Susan Lyle (26) works in finance.
Robert and I met six years ago and he had more of a goatee then. I prefer him with the full beard though. I certainly approve of beards. I think some men look better and more attractive with a beard. They're more manly. I do get irritated skin because of the beard but I don't mind.
Not everyone looks better with a beard but Robert certainly does. He keeps his nice and trimmed with no stray hairs.
I think Jeremy Paxman looks great with a beard but everyone needs to experiment to find the one that suits them."
How to keep well-groomed
Jason Shankey is a male grooming expert with salons in both Belfast and London. He says:
"Beards are popular and are on trend at the moment. There are two types. The older gentlemen tend to wear their beards long, full and thick. Younger men tend to go for the stubble look where the hairs are kept to a length of about three millimetres.
For the perfect beard it's important to keep your beard shaped properly so it doesn't look too untidy. My top tips are trim your beard once a week. Use a razor to shape the outline so it looks well kept and fresh. If your beard starts to get itchy, wash it with shampoo and use conditioner too. That will soften it and should get rid of the urge to itch. Make sure you wash your beard on a daily basis as food particles can get caught in the hair and it's not very hygienic."