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Neckbeards Keep Lowellians Warm

Blockmates participate in facial hair contest

By Robin M. Peguero, Crimson Staff Writer

While most students have been throwing on wool scarves and turtlenecks to keep warm over the past few weeks, a group of undergrads have resorted to a more natural solution: the neckbeard.

Last week, eight Lowell House residents kicked off the first-ever Lowell “Neckbeard-a-thon,” a new exam period ritual for stir-crazy students that bars contestants from shaving any body part below the jawbone. Facial shaving is, however, encouraged.

Alex F. Binkley ’04 and his friends decided that they needed to pull at least one more crazy college stunt before graduating this spring—and they settled on the “Neckbeard-a-thon” as the perfect way to fulfill that goal while also relieving the stress of exams.

Binkley and his blockmates sent an e-mail to Lowell-open over a week ago, challenging all male residents of the House to participate in the competition, a test of endurance, rewarding the last man still neckbearded with the pot of $24 in entrance fees.

But the contest—which did not garner any responses from the open list—has become an itchy situation for Binkley and his friends after seven days without shaving their necks.

“I’m not going to be the first to go,” said Christopher W. Gerry ’04, whose light-colored neck whiskers are hardly noticeable from afar. “I want to outlast my roommate, at least, but it itches like hell.”

So far, Binkley’s beard is coming in the thickest.

Although not typically a hairstyle he sports, Binkley said he’s gotten positive reviews of the neckbeard from women.

“It’s not really a style in any sort of way, yet. I’m going to keep it,” he said. “I have not received any negative feedback. Some girls actually like it.”

Indeed, Abraham R. Kinkopf ’04 said he’s been surprised by how tolerant some of the contestants’ girlfriends have been of the unorthodox look.

“Rob’s girlfriend was not too happy about it at first,” Kinkopf said of fellow contestant Robert G. Bonstein ’04. “The rest of us who are single have taken ourselves out of the pool of eligible bachelors for a few weeks.”

Blockmate Abby E. Carruthers ’04, who was encouraged to enter the competition but declined the invitation, said she thinks the “Neckbeard-a-thon” is a fun way to kill time during reading period, but she’s doubtful that it will end up starting a new trend.

“It’s a look that will not catch on,” Carruthers said. “I don’t personally find the look attractive.”

This is not the first time the Lowell House blocking group has tested out a new whacky ritual at Harvard.

Last year, the gang created the 40/40 club, gathering 13 people to eat 40-ounce burritos with 40 ounces of malt liquor in 40 minutes, a feat documented by Fifteen Minutes.

Carruthers said the group has received numerous appeals to hold a meeting of the 40/40 club again.

But for now, they’re focusing on their neckbeards.

“It’s an expression of mass stupidity,” said Bonstein, whose own seven-day neckbeard is still sparse. “Those of us who have not completed puberty, like myself, have a few hairs sprouting sparingly.”

Binkley said he is not planning on lathering up his neck anytime soon—even though he’s been growing his beard three days longer than his friends because he forgot to shave before the start of the contest.

He said he will continue to grow the neckbeard through intersession.

“I sort of like it and it makes me warmer,” Binkley said. “It’s like a built-in scarf.”

Carruthers predicts Binkley will ultimately win—by a neck.

—Staff writer Robin M. Peguero can be reached at

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