I have a theory about Capuchin beard-growing that I think all young friars should at least hear. My theory is largely dismissed, but to me the anecdotal evidence is convincing. In short, this is my theory: you can grow the traditional Capuchin beard if you wish, but if you do you can't cut it off. If you do, you will lose your vocation and you will leave the Order.
Allow me to elaborate.
The beard is, of course, traditional to the Capuchins. And not just any beard; by 'beard' in this sense is meant the natural, untrimmed beard that grows unchecked from your face and neck. Our first Constitutions prescribed the wearing of the beard because it was "manly, austere, natural, an imitation of Christ and the saints of our Order, and despised." The "despised" is usually left off in quotations of this precept. It's an odd omission; grow a traditional Capuchin beard and you will find that it is still despised, as the brothers themselves fulfill (somewhat ironically) the words of their fathers.
Nowadays the beard is optional, though many friars sport some form of facial hair as a nod to the tradition. Our current Constitutions say that the wearing of the beard is subject to the "norm of pluriformity." (pluriformitatis norma) When it's morning in Paris you can try to call a semiotician to make sense of that one. Good luck. Nevertheless, the beard still has a lot going for it, not the least because it serves to further distinguish us from the secular clergy of the Latin rite, who, good Romans that they are, tend to go about clean-shaven.
There are various tales about how it was that the traditional beard became optional. Some friars say that it was necessitated by the cultural shifts of the 1960s, when beards came to associated with hippies, homosexuals, and (gasp) social radicals. Another version (my favorite) says that when the brothers first came to New York City they found that when they went out in clerical attire (with Roman collars obscured by their beards) they were promptly mistaken for Rabbis.
In any case, it is now nobody's business but your own whether you have a beard of any sort or for whatever reason, religious or otherwise. Therefore, it sometimes gets into the head of a zealous young Capuchin, a novice or recently professed perhaps, that he would like to grow the big, traditional, Capuchin beard. Congratulations, I say, and good for you, but be warned.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that once you grow this traditional beard, if you then cut it off, you will lose your vocation and leave the Order. I have observed this several times, and have developed a theory to explain it: When a Capuchin, in his fervor for his particular vocation, decides to grow the traditional beard and succeeds, somehow the Capuchin-ness of his soul grows into and lodges in the beard. If the beard is then removed, the connection of the soul to the vocation is severed, the grace of perseverance is lost, and the brother goes back to the world.
UPDATE: For those who are trying to grow a beard, and don't have scruples about assimilating to the new syncretism of our age, I learn from City of God IV:11 that they should pray to the god Fortuna Barbata to bless them with success.
FURTHER UPDATE: As of late summer 2013, we are observing carefully a possible instance of counter-evidence to the theory.