Why shave in winter?

I’ve heard the argument that havign a bear in winter means you’re warmer… and as someone with a well groomed mustache and trimmed goatee I take offence to that idea… after all, it’s been rather cold in Norway these last few days, and… well, lets look at a photo from Shackleton’s Trans Antartic Expedition shall we?

Lionel Greenstreet (1889 – 1979), his beard frozen with breath icicles, during the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914-17, led by Ernest Shackleton. (Photo by Frank Hurley/Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/Getty Images)

Your breath is humid, humid means water, water freezes, and there you go. Not too pleasant, and certainly not warm. Back in the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration this was well known, as shown in this excerpt from Roald Amundsen’s book about his Antartic Expedition in 1910-11:

When the meal is over, one of them calls for scissors and looking-glass, and then one may see the Polar explorers dressing their hair for the approaching Sunday. The beard is cut quite short with the clipper every Saturday evening; this is done not so much from motives of vanity as from considerations of utility and comfort. The beard invites an accumulation of ice, which may often be very embarrassing. A beard in the Polar regions seems to me to be just as awkward and unpractical as — well, let us say, walking with a tall hat on each foot. As the beard-clipper and the mirror make their round, one after the other disappears into his bag, and with five “Good-nights,” silence falls upon the tent. The regular breathing soon announces that the day’s work demands its tribute.

While the weather was a wee bit colder for Amundsen, I do agree with him; beard and winter don’t mix well. Thankfully I don’t stay out in the cold, or I would shave what I got off…

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