Pakistan’s rugged north-west sees an outbreak of pogonophilia

Feb 07, 2019

HOVERING ABOVE a plush barber’s chair in his small hair salon in Peshawar, a city in northern Pakistan, Muhammad Ijaz strokes a beard so intricately designed it verges on the preposterous. Hair swoops across his cheeks. A chinstrap of clean-shaven skin surrounds a thin goatee. “It’s never been done before,” boasts the 24-year-old with a smile.

Such so-called “French” beards (a term that might surprise Parisians) are sprouting all over the urban centres of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a mountainous border region, only recently emerged from almost a decade on the front line of Pakistan’s Taliban insurgency. Between 60% and 95% of customers now come in for fancy designs, according to a straw poll of the barbers in Khyber supermarket, a popular shopping destination. One barber draws his fingers across his face, illustrating the “L”, the “J” and other in-vogue patterns.

Why the coiffed exuberance? A barber’s customers offer a...

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