Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 27, 2001

Five Island men talk about their experience with a beard

By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer

It seems that, around O'ahu at least, quite a bit of facial hair is grown "by accident," without a plan or purpose in mind.

Bill Hartman, a fiftysomething gastroenterologist at Straub, first grew facial hair in medical school. "I grew a mustache with a conscious effort to look older. I also thought I looked cool; it was a macho thing," he said, chuckling.

Hartman now has a full beard. "I never considered myself a beard person until about 10 years ago when I went out into the wilds of Alaska for a vacation.

After two weeks of growth, it surprised me that it looked pretty good. When we got back to civilization, I looked everywhere for a souvenir of the trip but couldn't find one. My wife suggested I keep the beard as a souvenir, since nearly every man in Alaska has a beard. 'Be an Alaskan man for a few months,' she suggested."

Ten years later, he's still sporting his Alaskan look. "As I grew it out, I liked it. A beard is so unusual in Hawai'i that you stand out when you have one. It's a way to be different, a distinguishing thing. It's a little like wearing a pink shirt. I'm a bit of an extrovert, and it adds a punctuation mark," Hartman said.

Hartman's wife, Shari, wants the beard to stay. In fact, she has made dire threats to her husband if he should shave off his beard.

Straub emergency room physician Earl Kubota, who is fortysomething, also grew a full beard his senior year in medical school "to make me look older." He wore the beard until last New Year's when he decided, "New millennium, new look."

However, he said, "I'm not really happy that I shaved off my beard. I liked not having to shave. Shaving is a nuisance." Reactions ranged from patients not recognizing him to his children being uncomfortable with the change. But nearly everyone thinks the clean-shaven face makes him look younger.

"It's like Rip van Winkle in reverse. I'm getting used to it, but it will take some time." Any plans to grow it back? "No, not really," Kubota said wistfully.

Radley Kanda of Kaimuki, a 29-year-old server at Mariposa restaurant, has a stylish Fu Manchu mustache with a neatly trimmed beard and a small soul patch in the middle of his chin. "No one else in the restaurant has a beard, so I wanted to try it," he said with a smile.

Kanda has had mixed reactions to the change, but "mostly positive," he said.

Older women appreciate it more than women his own age.

Is is a keeper?

"Sure, no plans to shave it off any time soon."

For Luigi Votano of Wai'alae-Kahala, 55 (and father of our model David), his beard is like a boomerang: It just keeps coming back. Votano shaves his beard nearly every month, "when I feel like I'm looking older," but it grows back in three to four days, and he renews his vows to keep it. "I wear a beard for the look. It makes me feel in fashion. I like it, and my wife Audrey likes it," he said.

In Italy, where Votano grew up, a beard is a fashion statement. "Right now all the young men in Italy have a very sculpted mustache and goatee. 'Designer stubble' is out now."

Although his beard is growing gray, it has never occurred to Votano to dye it. "I once tried to dye my hair and it didn't look good, so I've never thought about dying my beard."

Paul Brown, 53, owner of the Paul Brown Salons and Day Spas, has had a beard since he was 21. "My family has no chin. My chin went right into my chest; there was no definition. The beard gave me more of a chin and a stronger chin."

The only time he shaved his beard was when he had a chin implant. And even after the facial modification, he still grew the beard right back.

Brown's beard is now about 60 percent white, so he dyes it because "I believe the beard does give me a younger look with color on it."