Everyone loves those hip beardy folk nowadays, don’t they? Beards can be the source of pride, style, and envy for those lucky to have one, and tickles and cuddliness for those in stubbly company. Beards have become a trend in the past few years in line with the rise of the hipster, to the point of authors like Will Self declaring them passé and fear for their reputations were they to don anything more than a six o’clock shadow. It is also becoming an aesthetic standard for many seeking partners, with many considering a beard as all but essential to their so-called type.

Beard-envy and beard lust provide the drive behind Bristlr, the newest dating service to jump onto the app-happy Tinder bandwagon. As the name suggests, ownership of some facial fuzz is desirable but thankfully not necessary, as people with beards may actually want non-bearded fellows to snuggle up to on winter nights. I, a self-confessed beard lover (but not beard owner), have therefore been sent into the murky depths by qmunicate to bring you the skinny on this new gem, and for absolutely no personal gain at all! In spite of my criticisms, however, it is possible it will change in the future. With Bristlr being such a new app, the creators are still taking to Facebook to ask users for help in tweaking and improving the app, but for now, I shall explore.

Upon signing up you’ll find an email from someone named John popping up in your inbox welcoming you. Having it appear in your intimate email space (or your spam filter) makes him seem a bit like an intrusive Tom from Myspace, but we can assume he has a beard and is basically a cuddly teddy bear, so it’s less creepy and more deserving of emoticons. Click a link, input some basic information and BAM! You can greedily gaze upon a page of beardy profile pictures to get you started (you can change this to a page of non-bearded lovelies too). Click a heart under peoples’ pictures to ‘like’ them, check up on your profile and messages at the top of the page, so far, so normal.

Messaging can be left open to all, or made exclusive to mutually interested members; an interesting development in online dating which makes the whole thing feel slightly less perverse and more personal. This, however, is hindered by the inability to see who ‘likes’ you without referring a certain number of friends to the service or –gasp- PAYING. But maybe if you have a true bearded connection you’ll just know and not need to forfeit hard-earned money. For cheapskates like me though it’s a shame, as seeing those who like you could definitely embolden you and enable you to make a move, regardless of your filter settings.

It also suffers from being in a rather clunky web-based format, and not a street-savvy smartphone app which would probably find a greater audience of hipsters amongst our iOS/Android-wielding generation. There’s nothing more mainstream than sitting down at a computer, even if it is a Macbook in a coffee shop, which is soooo overdone now. Bristlr also lacks any other filters aside location and beardiness level, which can yield an overwhelming volume of results, and also doesn’t allow members to regulate their preferred age range, nor necessarily the gender of their results. Small fish to fry maybe, but annoying nonetheless, especially when sites like Plenty of Fish or can offer more efficient, personalised services (which maybe include ‘beards’ in interests? Who knows? That’s a whole other article).

Bristlr is a gimmick which could potentially earn some nice pocket money for its creators, were it to find more widespread circulation through social media savvy, though it looks unlikely to burst to the forefront of dating service technology any time soon. It preys on the need for a ‘different’ and ‘kooky’ dating service for young men and their facial follicly-challenged female counterparts opposed to apps as mainstream and superficial as Tinder where –God forbid- someone may judge them instantaneously and think they were less cool than they hold themselves to be. It’s as ironic as stubble rash is painful, and as twee-coated as Zooey Deschanel giving a cupcake lesson in the Hillhead Bookclub.

That criticism aside, would I keep using it? Well, I’m not rushing to delete my profile.  For beard lovers it could be the place where the connection is made, and to complain of it being twee is to ignore the multitude of other niche dating services popping up. If you’re a beard lover, go for it! Maybe the Glaswegian community of beardies will increase in time and make it more worthwhile. Until then, qudos to the QMU-based members who currently make up almost the whole Glasgow region.

[Lara Davis]

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