Howard appears to have hit the zeitgeist before his time. According to Simon Reynolds the beard is "the crucial signifier of non-mainstream rock", with Bonny Prince Billie as the leader of a pack of American alt rock acts:
I'd rather be an outlier that an outright liar. So, to tell you the truth, the beard was all part of my naive master plan to be different. I say naive because when you're younger you don't realise that what record companies are looking for is something that's the same, not something that's different. So when we were searching for a deal they were looking for something that was the same as Duran Duran. So that was us buggered.