Peak beard has been reached

by Colin McIntosh​

beardBy definition, the most cutting-edge fashions cannot be too popular. Being different from the rest of the herd is what marks out the true trendsetter, and once the trends he or she has espoused become ubiquitous, he or she needs to move on to the next new thing. In this bewildering world of change, the Cambridge dictionary is there at the cutting edge to bring you the latest trends in the English language.

Anyone who has lived in or visited a city in the western world over the past five years cannot fail to have noticed the bizarre popularity of beards. Whereas before beards were derided by fashionistas as the province of grandaddies, now a cult has grown up around them. But their very ubiquity is now their downfall. We have now, it seems, reached peak beard: the tipping point where their popularity means that they are no longer an indicator of being in the vanguard.

The expression peak beard seems to have arrived from economics (another example of a word crossing over from technical vocabulary into the mainstream). Peak oil is the the point in time at which humans will be extracting the maximum amount of petroleum from the earth, after which it will go into decline. Other recent extensions have included peak avocado, where the huge popularity of the avocado, down to its supposed health-giving properties and its uptake among celebrities, is said to have gone into reverse. Peak jam jar was reached when the London soap Eastenders had its trendy bar, the Albert, serving cocktails in glass jars, in imitation of hipster spaces in Hoxton or Hackney in London and Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

The language used to indicate new fashions is itself subject to changes in fashion. A new colour or skirt length can be on trend or trending. A new trend can be cutting-edge, or even bleeding-edge. Hipster has undergone various changes, from 1940s cool, through 1960s and 70s hippies, followed by a period of being deeply unfashionable in the 1980s and 90s, to the modern urbanite beard-wearer.

In order to show disdain for what is no longer fashionable, people in the industry (models, designers, journalists) affect an English-sounding so: “That is so last year, darling.” Variations include “That is so 2015” and “That is so last century”. The latter was popular immediately after the Millennium, but quickly peaked.

In the words of the philosopher, there is nothing so out of fashion as something that is still in fashion.

3 thoughts on “Peak beard has been reached

  1. You missed the related idea for TV shows of “jumping the shark”. which the Urban Dictionary defines as “a term to describe a moment when somethin that was once great has reached a point where it will now decline in quality and popularity.

    Origin of this phrase comes from a Happy Days episode where the Fonz jumped a shark on waterskis. Thus was labeled the lowest point of the show.”

    For examples, see http://www.rollingstone.com/tv/lists/jumping-the-shark-20141002/true-blood-20141002

  2. Pingback: Peak beard has been reached | 21st-century words

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