Trial and Error
Soon after reading Neutron Star for the first time, one of my students appeared with an asymmetric beard, and it actually looked pretty cool. He had very thick facial hair, so he could do extremely precise designs in it; I imagine sparse beards would not look so good. In any case, Niven’s use of the asymmetric beard got me thinking of the wonderful absurdity of fashions when viewed across cultures (or even within cultures).
No era is immune to this absurdity. As evidence, I submit to you the saggy ass-pants of teen culture. (Really? You want to show me your underpants?) Nor is it only sub-cultures who are guilty, as anyone can tell you who has picked up their high school yearbook after twenty years away. If you haven’t lived that long and you think your high school yearbook pictures look “bomb,” just you wait. You’ll cringe. Or wait until you show them to your kids. “Mommy, what was wrong with your hair?”
Exhibit two, my sophomore tolo picture. That’s right. I’m wearing a brown tuxedo with brown-accents on the ruffled shirt and cuffs. Eat your heart out.