Hi all - long time since I posted but I always enjoy reading the topics. Yes, guilty of lurking. But as this is a favourite topic of mine I just couldn't resist ;) ......
I don't think the whole beard thing is such a big thing in the UK anymore - so as someone said earlier in the thread, it depends where in the world you are...but there is indeed a ban on the beard for convention and assembly speakers.
I grew up in a liberal congregation too. I grew a goatee when I was about 25, and none of the elders said anything negative. I think they secretly liked it. I remember the Presiding Overseer ( as coordinators were then known) saying something along the lines of "some people say brothers shouldn't have beards, but that's only if they grow long. Yours is well trimmed".
BUT the sisters and non-appointed men were a different story. it was the sisters that used to tell me to shave it off. One sister from another congregation came to our book study one time and was shocked I was allowed to read the paragraphs. She also told me in no uncertain terms to shave it off (that was before she herself stopped going to the meetings after her elder-husband had an affair). Another brother (not elder or MS) who had always taken a disliking to me used it as yet another excuse to criticise me.
I did give in and shave it off eventually until I moved to a new congregation and did exactly what James Mixon suggested:
"A thought, for you guys still stuck in the organization for whatever reason,
grow a beard. You can't get DF, you don't have to prepare for parts for the meetings, no FS..You will not be ask to do anything."
Didn't work! I was appointed as a ministerial servant! Admittedly at one point I was asked whether I wanted to give a talk at the assembly and warned about the proviso of no beards for speakers. I declined.
Just to support what others have said - I was told it had its roots in the hippie movement, whereas in Italy it has its roots as being an identifier for communists (again probably about 50 years ago, so no relevance to the modern world!)
Pharasaical? much? lol