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The question

Beards and mustaches are always symmetrical – even the most avant-garde of them. Why is there no innovation in this area of men's grooming?

The answer

I could tell you about scientific studies showing that people across all cultures of the world respond to symmetry in facial features as a mark of attractiveness, or that scientists theorize that symmetry is universally valued because it is a marker of genetic quality and lack of disease. But we all know that, really, people are just conservative.

There are all kinds of interesting clothes we don't wear because, well, we just don't: Men's skirts, for example, have been introduced on Western runways every year since about the late sixties and they have never caught on. There is no reason for this at all other than simple herd mentality. There are lots of interesting things we could do with our bodies: We could cover ourselves with paint, we could wear inflatable muscles, we could dress like superheroes. But changes in fashion are generally minuscule and glacially paced. What is deemed ridiculous or elegant is actually arbitrary. (Why do we shave our faces at all?) I think a clump of hair on one side of your face would indeed look ridiculous, but then I'm as trapped in generations of convention and expectation as everyone else.

Russell Smith's latest novel is Girl Crazy. Have a fashion question? E-mail