Everyone has heard the expression 'clothes make the man' at some point in their lives. Literary great Mark Twain once quite astutely pointed out that "naked people have little or no influence on society."
However, at the risk of offending the ghost of one of the greatest [and surliest] American writers, I must respectfully disagree. Clothes can certainly have a dramatic impact on one's image, but nothing can alter an appearance like a drastic change in facial hair.
Well, nothing that's not permanent. Terrifying face tattoos are definitely a more dramatic change, but you're really stepping out of society when you decide to pay someone to permanently cover your face in leopard spots or lizard scales.
So facial hair is the way to go if you're a man looking for a serious change. Like if you have to go into witness protection or something. A few weeks or months of shunning the shaving can render most people virtually unrecognizable to their manicured selves.
Athletes are no exception. Here are 20 athletes with vaguely familiar hairy alter egos.
The beard of Mavericks big man Dirk Nowitzki is like the tides—predictable. There are ebbs and flows, but it's always there in some form or another.
Given that Nowitzki never grows it out to the extent that many attention-seeking athletes do, it's surprising how different he looks with some light scruff compared to medium scruff.
Petulant wide receiver Randy Moss changed his look almost as often as he changed his personality during his 15-year career in the NFL.
These two looks were at either side of the spectrum, but it wasn't that often that it swung that far in either direction.
Ironically enough, Moss usually landed somewhere in the middle. Unlike his polarizing personality, which could only be measured in extremes.
I'm not sure that many people have questioned the decision of Timberwolves big man Kevin Love to firmly commit to a full beard. But for anyone who has, you've got your answer.
Love's big scruffy beard may not be the most universally attractive look, but at least it's the look of a grown ass man. Shave that thing off and you're left with a gigantic baby-faced man boy.
Jets wide receiver Braylon Edwards is a bit of a strange case. When he decides to go whole hog in growing out that beard of his, it's one of the most impressive face mane's in all of professional sports.
In terms of recognizing Edwards—it doesn't matter if he keeps it high and tight or throws caution to the wind and grows it out for the better part of a year—somehow he always looks like him.
Maybe it's the diamond earrings?
Rays bench coach Dave Martinez had a beard on and off throughout his playing career, but I had to go all the way back to his first few seasons with the Cubs to find him clean shaven.
Martinez looks so drastically different today with the heavy beard that I kept checking to make sure it was actually the same person. Although three decades of aging probably plays a pretty big part as well.
Retired Patriots offensive tackle Matt Light was known to dramatically change up the hair on his massive head each season.
Like many of the burly men in the NFL, he'd usually start the season looking more like the dude on the left. And then he'd finish looking like the dude on the right.
But all the facial and head hair in the world couldn't disguise Light's shockingly boyish features. Which he probably appreciates more today than he once did.
You have to go back quite awhile if you want to see free agent point guard Baron Davis without his, usually quite ample, beard.
It's varied in length and overall robustness over the years, but its presence has been damn near constant since Davis was drafted by the Hornets back in 1999.
I had to go all the way back to his college days at UCLA to find a photo of his face cleanly-shorn, with no hint of stubble.
Flyers forward Max Talbot has some kind of superhuman ability to grow out his beard. Which is really great for him because hockey players are almost universally dedicated to the playoff beard thing.
There's always a handful of guys playing in the Stanley Cup finals each year with hilariously inadequate facial hair, despite having two full months to grow it out. You know the look—patchy and thin…sometimes with random patches of red.
That's not something Talbot ever has to worry about. He can go from clean-shaven to a Grizzly Adams beard over the course of a single series. I wouldn't be surprised if the before and after photos were taken at dawn and dusk on a single day.
I searched high and low in an attempt to unearth a fresh-faced photo of Lakers big man Pau Gasol and ultimately came up empty. It was a fairly exhaustive search that went back years. Not to mention...pretty frustrating.
Now I'm not going to say that none exist because that would be an invitation for everyone in the internet digging up the same obscure photo and emailing it to me en masse because of some very strange desire they have to stick it to a stranger.
That being said, Gasol's dedication to his trademark dirty grifter look is absolute. A few days worth of groomed stubble is generally as baby-faced as this lanky Spaniard gets.
A's outfielder Josh Reddick is pretty new to the beard world. He began growing his in March after accepting the challenge of WWE wrestler Daniel Bryan.
Although it looks like Reddick was fully committed to the 'beard-off',' he actually trimmed it in late April—a last ditch attempt to help his bust out of a 2 for 22 slump.
Baseball players are all slaves to their superstitions.
Free agent forward DeShawn Stevenson crossed over to the bearded side back in 2007 when he was playing for the Wizards.
In Florida over the summer he met up socially with a full-bearded Cavaliers forward by the name of Drew Gooden, who challenged Stevenson to match his manliness and grow a badass beard of his own.
He accepted the challenge and two years later Gooden paid Stevenson an undisclosed amount of cash to settle up.
It's been quite awhile since we've seen the long luxurious locks of Johnny Damon. Back during his playing days in Boston, he was known to grow out his hair and beard pretty regularly. And the girls went crazy for it.
Of course after he ditched his Red Sox for something in a pinstripe, Damon was forced to embrace a more manicured look that is mandatory with the Yankees. He looks like an entirely different person with a clean shave and tightly cropped hair.
If you ask me [I realize you didn't], Damon lost all of his mojo when he lost all of his hair. And he never quite got it back...
I'm pretty sure that Texans safety Ed Reed was born with a neatly manicured goatee. I can't officially confirm that theory, but it's the least amount of facial hair I've ever seen on that mean mug of his.
And, as a Steelers fan, I've seen plenty of this guy over the last 11 years. Too much, in fact.
Reed was more likely to do the goatee thing early in his career, but these days he keeps it casual with a big messy beard and a full head of hair. Which is definitely a good thing—he looks more intimidating with all that hair and it adds an air of mystery.
Mike Commodore doesn't even play in the NHL anymore, but his thick ginger beard and curly 'fro are still very much in the minds of hockey fans everywhere.
This isn't a look he rocks full time because, let's face it, it's just too damn intense. Like a high end tuxedo you splurged on, Commodore busts it out on special occasions.
Which makes it all the more special.
After playing three years with the Phillies, right fielder Jayson Werth signed a seven-year contract with the Nationals in December 2010.
It was a pretty big day for him—it's not every day a team is willing to overpay a mediocre player like Werth here to the tune of $126 million. Perhaps he was unsure how best to commemorate the occasion and ultimately decided that never ever shaving again was the only option.
I bet the Natties were hoping Werth would commemorate the moment with 30 home runs again at some point or maybe with 150 hits in a season. Joke's on them.
Ah yes...Ricky Williams. It's crazy that he hasn't sported his "I quit football to smoke weed but was forced to come back because I was broke and owed the Dolphins a whole mess of money" look in forever.
He's been meticulously groomed for years, but when I picture Williams in my head, he always looks like the guy on the right. And he probably always will. It just suits him...or suits the version of him that exists in my head.
Now this is quite a look. Have you been searching for a new look that brings the drama and makes a large segment of the population nervous? Greg Zanon definitely was—and boy did he find it.
Q-balling the dome is a pretty bold move for a dude, even on its own. [Well…it is for white dudes] Growing out a massive beard makes it exponentially bolder. Zanon looks completely out of whack with that thing!
Almost as if his head was screwed on upside down. Spooky.
Dodgers reliever Brian Wilson has his whole "fear the beard" thing—and it's fun and all—but at this point there's nothing really interesting about what he's doing.
Not that it's his fault. Wilson is one of the spectacle beard's trailblazers, however, in the last few years it's gone the way of Mt. Everest.
He may have been one of the first to climb the mountain, but these days the trail he blazed is littered with the garbage of all those who have followed and there are traffic jams around every corner.
I'm just thinking it may be time for Wilson to consider changing things up again. Just so long as he never goes back to the faux hawk and soul patch he used to rock. [Or not rock, as the case may be]
Rockets shooting guard James Harden is the Brian Wilson of the NBA. Or is Brian Wilson the James Harden of MLB? Forget it. Going down that chicken or the egg road is always a frustrating exercise in futility.
Their beards are definitely occupying the same general space in pop culture. And for guys that sure don't look alike physically, it's funny that their beards look so similar. Their size, shape and overall structure are virtually the same.
So just ditto everything I said about Wilson's beard for Harden's!
The epic mountain man beard has become Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel's trademark look. The fame of that brushy wilderness that overtakes his face for most of the year has far eclipsed the man himself.
He's more of an athletically inclined fleshy vessel that may or may not exist at the sole discretion of the beard. Seriously! A quick Google search returns four dedicated beard fan pages—and that's just on the first page of results:
- BrettKeisel.com is the official site of Super Bowl champion Brett Keisel (and his beard).
- KeiselBeardMe.com allows you to upload a photo and…well…beard yourself.
- Facebook.com/bkeiselsbeard has almost 50,000 Likes.
- DaBeard.com is the home of the OFFICIAL gear of the beard. And there's a lot of it...and I don't think it's actually official.
Keisel generally has his face shorn after each season for charity—he probably flies someone in from New Zealand who spends the rest of his year practicing his shaving skills on sheep. He spends the next two months living in complete anonymity because he's is unrecognizable without the beard.