Whether you know it or not, Philadelphia is a culturally rich city and home to various things including the Philly cheese steak, the first ever slavery protest, and The Philly Beard. If you’re not familiar with The Philly Beard or “Sunni“, start paying attention to the young men around Philadelphia. Many of them have adopted the popular physical trait of wearing a beard. There are a number of African American men who have decided to grow a beard for religions reasons, specifically Islamic practices. Others have just decided it’s something that’s apart of Philly culture and wanted in on the action. So what’s the back-story of The Philly Beard? First we have to look at the significance of the beard itself.
Beards have been around way before The Philly Beard or a “Sunni” became popular. Beards can be traced back to ancient Greece,Rome, and India, among other early civilizations. There also religious connections to the beard in Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. The beard was often used as a sign of class, religious superiority, and even sexual maturity. Here in our city, religious is diverse and Islam is one of the fastest growing religions during the last decade in Philadelphia as well as worldwide. It was just recently reported by USA Today that mosques are popping up faster than ever now. With Islam growing and becoming a growing religion among African American, especially males, the number of beards have increased. There also can be a connection made to the number of African American males being converted in prison or recruited by others in their neighborhoods.
While religious reasons are indeed a factor in The Philly Beard hype, some guys just like it. I wanted to get some real answers from guys who grew beards for personal reasons, not religious ones. Some guys do it for a mature look like Kevin from Mount Airy who is mistaken for being younger without it. “Without my facial hair, I look like puberty is just on its way and hasn’t quite come yet.” Paul from West Philadelphia has other reasons saying, “My clippers broke and I don’t have the money for new ones or a shape up every week.” Interestingly enough, he has decided he’ll probably be keeping the beard because he “likes the Rick Ross look with locs”.
Hip Hop’s influence on beards also have a lot to do with The Philly Beard. Frontmen of The Roots and Philly natives drummer and producer, ?uestlove, and rapper Black Thought, both have been rocking beards for while now. Rapper Rick Ross also sports a beard slightly resembling Philadelphia rapper, Freeway. Freeway is often recognized for his beard and has been on many best beards in hip hop lists including one where he lists himself as number one.
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So will The Philly Beard ever fade out? Don’t count on it. Most likely it will continue as a mainstay among young men in Philadelphia. It’s not always for religious reasons but there’s no denying the influence. So for all you guys growing your Philly Beard, what’s your reason?
Valerye Griffin —> @valmarie