Where does come from?
We may have reached "peak beard" in the mid-2010s, but Unicode didn't approve the bearded person emoji until 2017 in its 10.0 update.
Across platforms, the bearded person emoji is male and yellow-faced, though modifiers are available to adjust the skin tone and hair color. Speaking of hair color, that's the main difference in design among major vendors. Apple's bearded person emoji has yellow hair with a dirty-blonde beard, for instance.
Google and Microsoft, meanwhile, have gone for a more Cro-Magnon or Planet of the Apes look, the men's beards and hair fusing into one, thick mass soon to take over their entire faces before moving on to conquer the universe, as this screenshot from Emojipedia shows below.
Note that older devices don't support the bearded person emoji, so it will show as a white box or other empty signifier.
Who uses ?
On social media and in texts, the bearded person emoji is frequently used in content referring to actual persons, almost always a cisgendered man, with beards, especially the big, bushy ones popular in the late 2010s.
🧔 Big beard.
— Sky Bet (@SkyBet) May 15, 2018
Before and after a year long beard bet 🧔 pic.twitter.com/a99x0fHwHA
— Michael Whitehead (@barely_irish) May 7, 2018
With this trend has come all kinds of groups and organizations using beards as a fun way to promote its causes, like No-Shave November or Movember.
Later this week, we will be launching our Annual Father’s Day Beard Contest. Now’s the time to get your glorious beard photo ready! 🧔 📷 💪💫
Details coming soon...
— Fresh Beards (@freshbeards) May 14, 2018
— Kannaa (@kannaa_kr) December 2, 2017
In professional sports, especially hockey, some players (and their fans) grow "playoff beards," not shaved until the team is eliminated from or wins the playoffs.
— CoolHockey.com (@CoolHockey1) May 7, 2018
All those beards require maintenance, and so the bearded person emoji often tags content dealing with male grooming, a burgeoning industry in the late 2010s. In this way, it's often paired with the barber pole or scissors emoji.
The amount of money I spend on hair products, trial and error, to find the perfect one...I think I need a sponsor 😂🧔🙏 pic.twitter.com/qt5ufPSqkG
— Mike Conroy (@MikeJConroy) May 16, 2018
Often times, the emoji is used to remark that such bearded fellows are handsome, many men and women liking the beard for its rugged, rough-around-the-edges sexiness—as long as it's well groomed dudes.
— Sothia Chhoeum (@sothiachhoeum2) May 12, 2018
The association between beards and "being a man," for better or worse, is a tight one, and so the bearded person emoji stands in for men more generally—or at least dudes thinking that's what they are.
Prom with all my Dads 🧔 pic.twitter.com/cZ4XV73s2J
— Campbell Suffridge (@CampbellSuffri1) May 15, 2018
In LGBTQ slang, a beard is someone who acts or is used as someone's partner to conceal that they are gay. Occasionally, the bearded person alludes to this slang.
— Garrett Paul Benson (@gpaulbenson) April 6, 2018
Growing out my beard 🧔
@21otani, May, 2018
You know, as a bearded man, putting honey on your pizza just isn’t worth it. 🧔 🍕
@jordanmayland, December, 2017
It's official my beard is the most proper man beard Ive ever had. I'm gonna go chop some wood now, then wrestle a bear and maybe rescue some cats from trees & stuff. Grrrr 🐻 🧔
@DangerousdanUK, December, 2017