I love to people watch. It’s probably why I became an Anthropologist. Nothing excites me more than to be out and about in a densely occupied area and to observe all that is going on around. One of my favorite people watching places is conferences. Now, my specialization within Anthropology is in Prehistoric Archaeology of the Near East, specifically Iran and Central Asia. This field has its own special conferences and workshops, but I am currently too junior a scholar and too without-funding to attend these events. I doubt very much that what I’ve observed at major field-wide conferences differs greatly from at these smaller to-dos, but rather, likely proceeds on a much smaller scale. Two conferences come to mind, in particular, the Society for American Archaeology 2012 in Memphis, and the American Institute of Archaeology 2012 in Philadelphia.
At these two conferences, I kept seeing the same styles of hair and beards all over the place. At the AIA’s it was a foppishly sweeping preppy bowl cut, along on top, parted strongly over to one side and short on the sides and back, reminiscent of southern dandies and British gentlemen. I saw it in blonde, brown, mouse, black, salt and pepper and all the different varieties, but there were no less than thirty different men at that conference sporting the same ‘do.
At the SAA’s it wasn’t on the top of the heads that caught my attention, but rather the beards. This trend was more pronounced. The beard resembles an Abe Lincoln, but creeps up onto the cheek ever so slightly. It is characterized by thin sideburns that flare out at the turn of the jaw and swoop up to the mustache, with a considerable goatee area. Usually it was kept fairly trim, but certain fellas were sporting some wildly askew whiskers.
I don’t think there’s really much more to this than at some point along the line, there was some Archaeologist who was a real bamf, who had a distinctive style. That style was copied by his students, and then by his students, and their students. I suppose the interesting part is that the Classicists at the AIA’s tended toward a more “Ivy League” or English style, whereas the Prehistorians at the SAA’s tended toward a more rugged, midwestern, outdoorsy style of capillary self expression.
The question then is, who was this mythical proto-bamf who set these trends in motion? As far as the beards are concerned, its an easy solution: Binford. Its the Binford beard. There is no question about it. You could even trace its genealogy from Binford to academic son to academic grandchild if you really wanted to. As for the fop flip? Beats me. Perhaps someone with a bit more knowledge might clue me in!