Beards have had a modest renaissance over the past decade and a half. So have longer sideburns, representing a tentative more in the direction of the luxuriant muttonchop side whiskers of the last century. (True muttonchops sweep downard from temples to chin and back toward the neck. They promise to meet at the chin but don't.)

A burnside, named after the timid Union general who affectec one, allows mutton chops to meet via a heavy mustache.

Mustaches are not as common as they once were. If you have a receding chin and if it troubles you, a beard will hide it. There are few receding upper lips. But then, who would Groucho Marx have been without that heavy black strip above his mouth?

Beginning with Lincoln we had a straight run of presidents (except for clean-shaven Andrew Johnson), through Benjamin Harrison in 1893, who decorated their faces with everything from flowing prophet beards to Harrison's exuberant mustache. All were establishment Republicans with the exception of Democrat Grover Cleveland, and he had a fine walrus mustache.

Indian Sikhs take beards about as far as they can go. Their religion forbids the cutting of any body hair, ever. A sikh's flowing locks are tucked into his turban. His beard is rolled up like a sleeping bag.

The goatee, a wispy chin beard, derives its name from the animal, which also has one. The vandyke, a trimmed elegant version of the goatee, is named for Sir Anthony Van Dyck, a noted Stuart-era painter in England. He cultivated one, and encouraged those who sat for his portraits to do likewise.

A fashion was born.