Recessionary beards: When the going gets tough, the tough stop shaving!

On March 14, hirsute New Yorkers competed in the city's fourth annual contest for the best beard in the five boroughs. In addition to its normal selection of events, including "Full Beard Natural," "Full Beard Freestyle" and even "Ladies' Artificial," this year's competition debuted a new category: "Recession Beards." (EDITOR'S NOTE: If you've got a great recession beard, upload a photo to our Facebook group, and we'll put together a gallery and let you help us select a winner!)

To compete in the Recession Beard event, contestants had to fulfill two requirements: they had to be out of work, and they had to be proud of their beards. The winner, Nate Stahura, who recently lost his job as a financial broker, said of his unkempt chin (and his prize), "It feels awesome [...] I'm awesome!"

While some media outlets have commented on the recession beard phenomenon, few have hazarded a guess as to its cause. The consensus opinion seems to be that unemployment offers the beard grower a greater level of freedom to experiment with his appearance. Many workplaces frown on facial hair, and those that allow it often have rules about length and cut. As unemployment releases the worker from the strictures of the office, the theory goes, he can use his newfound freedom as an opportunity to explore his chin locks.