The same way some women may choose to veil and wear gloves, Saudi men will choose whether or not to have a beard. My general understanding is similar to the woman who chooses to dress more conservatively indicating modesty and piousness, the Saudi men who grows a beard does so as well to indicate his devotion to his faith and that he is also a pious and religious individual. The longer and more unkempt the beard, the more traditional and pious is the man.
I also went to the internet to see what information I would find on the subject of Muslim men and beards. To my surprise, I found there is indeed a lot of information and most of it does encourage or in some cases command the Muslim man to grow a beard.
Some sites which go into detail on this topic include:
http://www.islam.tc/beard/beard.html (What Islam Says about the Beard)
http://www.geocities.com/mikailtariq/beard.htm (Beards and Islam) this link is interesting for it has photographs of widely known Muslim leaders who chose NOT to have a beard.
http://www.answering-christianity.com/growing_beards.htm (Is Growing Beards Mandatory in Islam)
http://www.islamnewsroom.com/content/view/171/52/ (Beards – Do We Have to Grow Them)
The majority of these sites say a beard is required but then some say that while there is nothing specific within the Quran that mandates a man to grow a beard, the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) requested men to grow beards and Muslims are instructed to follow the teachings and sayings of the Prophet.
So now it is confirmed men should have beards. Then why do we instead see a lot of Saudi (and other) Muslim men without them? If I am allowed to play “armchair psychologist” I believe it is not saying the man is not religious or does not have strong faith. In many cases it is a matter of personal choice and preference; many man like to be clean shaven. Many women also prefer to have a clean shaven husbands too.
And of course, hand-in-hand with a man who prefers to be clean shaven, it is usually a good presumption to believe the clean shaven man is more “open, liberal and modern.”
Something I have seen very common here in the Kingdom is the men who have a very small goatee. I guess this would qualify as a beard but at the same time is quite small. In fact, King Abdullah and Crown Prince Sultan both sport goatees rather than beards. And if you look at other well known prominent Royals such as Prince Saud al Faisal (Foreign Minister), Prince Turki al Faisal (former Saudi Ambassador to Washington), Prince Alwaleed bin Talal (Kingdom Holdings), Prince Salman (Governor of Riyadh), they do not sport beards.
Now on the other hand I have noticed that Saudi men, older and younger, are very serious about having their mustaches!