Entertainment & Arts

Jeremy Paxman waves goodbye to his beard

Jeremy Paxman
Image caption Paxman expressed surprise at the attention his beard attracted

Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman has shaved off his infamous beard for the new year.

Speaking to Radio Times magazine, Paxman, 63, said: "If a chap can't shave on holiday, what can he do? Beards are so 2013."

Paxman unintentionally created a media storm when he fronted Newsnight with a full beard on BBC Two last August.

At the time, he branded the BBC "pogonophobic" - which means having a fear of beards.

He also explained his reasons, saying: "I have grown a beard for the last few summers, and suddenly wondered whether I really needed to shave it off to present Newsnight.

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Media captionPaxman returns to his clean-shaven look

"Unless you're lucky enough to be Uncle Albert on Only Fools And Horses, Demis Roussos or Abu Hamza, the BBC is generally as pogonophobic as the late-lamented Albanian dictator, Enver Hoxha."

Expanding on his thesis, he told the Telegraph: "Beards promise freedom."

"They cover a multitude of chins. They spare you having to look in the mirror at the ravages of time, absolve you of pointless, never-to-be-acted-upon promises to yourself, and they remind you that you're not going into the office today."

Paxman's newly-hirsute appearance caused a flurry of comment and opinion pieces during the summer's slow news season.

Radio broadcaster Robin Lustig, a beard of the year winner, agreed that the BBC was biased against beards.

"On TV, yes definitely, the evidence is there," he said. "There's no bearded current affairs presenter.

"Michael Buerk once was told to shave off his beard if he wanted to carry on presenting."

Image caption Gareth Malone's beard has also been a hot topic

Celebrities also waded into the debate, with Comedian Russell Brand, telling Paxman his beard was "gorgeous" during a Newsnight interview.

"If the Daily Mail don't want it, I do," he added. "I'm against them, grow it longer, tangle it into your armpit hair."

Paxman replied: "You are a very trivial man."

The Beard Liberation Front, which describes itself as a British and international pressure group which campaigns in support of beards and opposes discrimination against those who wear them, said it was a shame Paxman had decided to return to his clean-shaven look.

"We support people's right to dress and appear as they want so, while we regret Jeremy Paxman's decision to shave off his gravitas-adding beard, the choice should be entirely up to him, BBC pogonophobia notwithstanding."

While Paxman made the shortlist for the Beard Liberation Front's Beard of the Year 2013, he was beaten by choirmaster Gareth Malone and actor John Hurt, who claimed joint first place.

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