Growing a beard is the top of the pyramid for male rites of passage, just above surviving a wasp sting and not crying during the end of Bambi. It’s a process that tests many tenets of manhood.
The journey of growing a beard demands a fair whack of patience and resilience. You also need the courage to ignore those second glances in the office, during that awkward period where your so-called beard looks like you’re hungover for the sixth day in a row and losing the plot a little bit.
There’s never been a better time in modern history to give it a crack. Fifty-five per cent of men worldwide have some facial hair. It’s no longer the domain of barbarians and bikies. Barbershops also offer comprehensive beard maintenance services nowadays. You’d struggle to find a shopping arcade that doesn’t have some sort of quirky man-den selling various oils, creams, and razors to help you get those beard styles just right.
It’s not a short article by any means, so you should have a decent amount of chin fluff to play within the mirror after giving this a read.
Stubble is meant to be the natural consequence of not shaving for a period of time. Some guys, however, enjoy the challenge of maintaining the pretence of 5 o’clock shadow as a permanent solution to their beard style woes.
Irony aside, designer stubble achieves that slightly-dishevelled cool that makes you look indifferent to the scorn of your peers. Less composed than being clean-shaven, a bit of scruff suggests to others that the guy couldn’t care less if he doesn’t look ‘schmick’ all the time.
Designer stubble does, however, require weekly maintenance across the entire chin and jaw with electric clippers. Use a plastic attachment or handheld comb to determine the desired length – shorter teeth are usually better.
Ensure your work is even. Neglecting parts of your chin or jaw will result in a patchy, uneven look that will make you look like you got flustered and forgot the basics of shaving. Designer stubble suits men with strong oval or square features, as it will accentuate an existing jawline.
If your face is on the longer side, stubble will also frame your features, and square things up a little. Unfortunately, not everyone is invited to the party. If you have a bit of extra baggage beneath your jawline, sit tight on the stubble. Trying to shave a jawline into rounded or plump features won’t fool anyone, and can draw attention to your affliction.
That being said, if you’re like me and cop serious razor burn, using electric clippers to maintain a little bit of scruff might be a very masculine alternative to the embarrassment of red splotches across your chin and neck.
Low effort and quintessentially masculine, this look was favoured by distinguished British chaps in World War II photos, before its adoption and immortalisation by Tom Selleck.
Although the chevron is a 20th-century classic, it is sufficiently versatile and masculine so adapting it for a contemporary audience won’t see you laughed out of the office. The chevron derives its name from military stripes that denote rank – hence, it forms a bent triangular shape.
You don’t need to be an old-money Brit or action hero to pull the chevron off. Simply let the moustache ends grow evenly across the top of your lip for several weeks, steadily brushing it with a comb to train the hairs to take the desired silhouette.
Using wax can help to shape the look – your barber will give you pointers on the right product for the thickness and texture of your hair. However, many men need more than 12 weeks to allow the shorter hairs beneath their nostrils to grow out to the edge of the moustache.
Keep everything else clean-shaven, as stubble undermines the clear contrast of the look. Keep it tight around the corners of your mouth – any longer and it becomes a handlebar in the making.
The chevron looks mustard on men with oval-shaped features. A prominent moustache can appear top-heavy over noticeably angular features, however. If that’s you, think about a smaller variant for proportion’s sake.
The Wolverine Beard Style
If you’ve seen Logan recently, you might have rediscovered how sideburns can look decent outside black-and-white portraits from the 1860’s.
Most of us associate sideburns with our favourite growly X-Man, but its origins are steeped in history. The sideburn cut became fashionable during the American Civil War (by a bloke called Burnside, points for originality) and has fluctuated on the style market ever since.
It took off again in the mid-’70s in a less dramatic cut to its wartime forebear. Sideburns extend from the tip of the cheekbone below the ear, and down the sides of the face. Growing sideburns follows the same expectations of a full beard.
The chin is usually left clean-shaven, with an optional moustache. Let the sides grow out for several weeks, while consistently shaving your chin to emphasise the side whiskers. Regular brushing will neaten the look unless your plan is to go for the extravagant Victorian-era mutton chop thing.
Substantial growth that covers most of your cheeks will need a bit of love from a decent moisturiser – the skin underneath still needs a good clean on a regular basis. The good news in that sideburns are fairly universal but tend to complement blokes with long or angular features by adding depth to the lower angles of the face.
Square or oval-shaped men don’t really stand to benefit considering they already have pronounced facial structure, so if you belong to this category, then maybe leave it to Hugh Jackman and Civil War re-enactors to carry the style.
The Handlebar Moustache
No one can resist a curly moustache. The handlebar accompaniment to a beard has seen various peculiar iterations over the centuries. It’s been seen on nasty German dictators and big-city bartenders who wear suspenders and refer to themselves as ‘mixologists’, but still can’t pick up.
It’s likely you fall somewhere in the middle of these extremes, so don’t be frightened off by its claimants. The handlebar can be done with or without a beard. The style is achieved by lengthening the moustache ends, and twisting them with bucketloads of wax to hold everything together. The ‘petit’ variant doesn’t extend beyond the corners of the mouth, but fuller variants impose no limit, besides genetics, on how far the ends can go.
A solid handlebar demands patience and a shitload of work twisting and shaping the ends. After growing it out to such an extent that the hairs closest to your nose reach beyond the corners of your mouth, you need to begin waxing and brushing the handlebar daily. Twist the ends and pull them (gently) towards your ears or higher, depending on the desired shape.
Heavier wax gets more bang for your buck, with the trade-off that heavy-duty waxes tend to be quite shiny. The handlebar’s dimensions depend on your face shape. Round faces suit a petit handlebar, as a long moustache will look out of proportion. Square or oval shape features sit somewhere in the middle. The best thing to do is experiment initially, and see how your unique dimension’s suit (or don’t suit) the look. Be brave.
If you have aspirations to join the Hell’s Angels, you might need one of these first. Sometimes mistaken for the handlebar moustache, the horseshoe or biker moustache is named due to its (you guessed it) resemblance to metallic plates worn to protect a horse’s feet.
It became popular among fat dudes on Harleys and wrestlers like Hulk Hogan. Growing a horseshoe is a test of your willpower and genetic potential. Not all men can achieve an unbroken moustache line down to their chin in the right thickness. Most barbers recommend growing a full beard, then shaving the edges off the cheekbone and jaw. Trying to sculpt a moustache as it grows can risk uneven shape, due to styling errors and sloppy clipper work. So, leave your facial hair alone for 8 or so weeks before having a sit-down in a barber’s chair to shave off excess hair and sculpt the horseshoe shape into place.
The width of the moustache ends shouldn’t be too chunky, nor should it be wispy thin. Keep the proportions of your face in mind; narrower features suit a thinner horseshoe, whereas a broad face asks for the opposite – but still try to avoid extremes altogether.
Before you put on leather pants and fire up your Harley, remember that this beard style doesn’t work on every Comanchero-wannabe. Long faces should stay away – this will just draw attention to your elongated features. If you have broad, plump cheeks though, the horseshoe takes some weight out of your face and can create a narrower profile.
The Full Beard
If the last few options smack of unnecessary compromise, then the full beard is for you. It’s the manliest, most primal option and one that all men secretly aspire to at some stage. As the most prototypically masculine option on this list, it’s also the hardest to pull off. Achieving a full beard style doesn’t depend on your skill with a razor or persistence. This is because no amount of careful shaping or waiting will trump the genetic precondition of even, thick growth – and not everyone won the genetic lottery.
Your beard must be even across the board, with no patches of weak or absent follicular development. No reason not to give it a crack, though. There’s only really one way to do this, and that’s to just grow that shit. Don’t trim anything before work in the morning, or try to shave it before you’ve achieved peak density. Seriously. Let it go for well beyond eight weeks. Then, look at upkeep. The rugged Viking-raider look might make you feel like a man, but the company director might form a different perspective. If you’ve got shaky hands, make fortnightly visits to the barber’s chair for touch-ups and trims to keep the wildness in check.
Hygiene-wise, regular moisturising will keep the skin underneath hydrated, and shampooing your beard will clean out dead skin and bacteria that can (and will) form if you’re not careful. If you’ve got the goods to pull it off, a full beard can flatter just about any face shape. A beard disguises perceived facial defects, such as a soft jawline or poorly defined cheekbones. If you worry that your sharp, defined features pose a safety hazard, a full beard can soften this for your peace of mind.
Short Boxed Beard Style
Not all men have ambitions to resemble their pillaging Scandinavian ancestors. The short-boxed beard is the leaner, less fierce cousin of a full beard. Instead of letting the beard grow out completely, close to the cheekbone and several centimetres below the jaw, the short beard is shaved closer to the chin on the sides, with minimal length outwards.
This style requires a similar period of growth, but much more maintenance than its fuller brethren. Exercise the same patience you would for a full beard, in allowing 8-12 weeks of untouched growth to ensure balance and density. Then it’s a matter of ‘shaping’ it, (i.e. doing some beard surgery with clippers and a comb) to reduce the longer ends and shave the beard beneath the tip of your cheekbone. Use clippers to define the tip of the beard across your cheek, and remember to shave your neck to finalise the tidiness of the style. The result is a cleaner, but no less masculine, an alternative to an untamed beard.
A reasonable compromise for corporate guys. Good news for men of different facial blessings. A short beard is a democratic option that doesn’t favour or disfavour anybody in particular. Most blokes can make it work, and it’s tidy enough to preserve your reputation in stuffy corporate gigs.
Of all beard styles, it’s the goatee that cops a hard rap. Its typical associations are creepy dudes and angry frontmen from bands that you weren’t allowed to listen to in high school. That’s hardly fair, though. Goatees deserve a second shot at life outside the angst of 90’s nu-metal.
The goatee is a surprise contender for versatility – it can be styled with longer growth beneath the chin, or combined with the chevron moustache for old-world charm. Plus, Brad Pitt made it work, which puts it further into the realms of acceptability. A goatee can take shape in a month of decent growth. Keep the sides of your face clean-shaven, while maximising growth on your chin and around the mouth area. Use your clipper skills to tidy up and keep the moustache and chin are connected, otherwise, the style tends to fall back into Limp Bizkit territory.
A goatee doesn’t ask the same sort of dedication for a full beard, but you’ll still need regular maintenance with clippers to keep the beard and moustache neat. The goatee complements round features by adding definition and breaking up the chubbiness to some degree. If you have sharp, pointy features, let your goatee grow out a bit to soften the look, as you may risk looking like you could slice open a cardboard box with your facial furniture.
Yeah, I know, this is a beard list. But sometimes it’s necessary to illustrate the opposite. For some men, it’s a tragic certainty that a beard just isn’t going to happen. You might have an unfortunate patch in a conspicuous spot.
Maybe the follicular Gods just didn’t like you enough to bless you with the right density for a full Viking. Either way, you just can’t do it. Your only option is to get cosy with lots of shaving cream and a razor and hope for the best. A well-executed close shave might not give you the Magnum P.I. boost of virility you’d hope for, but it does impart some crucial benefits. Going clean-shaven is safe and reliable.
Clean-shaven men look respectable, composed, and like they’re on top of themselves. Importantly, it’s unlikely to risk retrospective humiliation, as different beard styles go in and out of fashion. The best way to execute a proper close shave is like many things – the old-school way. The dodgy disposable razors in your cupboard are an inferior, poor man’s alternative to safety or double-edged razors.
Spend a minute or two softening your cheeks, jaw, and neck with a damp and warm towel. Use a shaving brush to lather shaving cream on the desired areas and then use short, careful strokes with the grain (watch the direction of growth and follow that). Less pressure is better – you can always go over the area again, but bruising the skin is never worth it.
Wash your blade after each stroke. Make absolutely sure to moisturise the fuck out of the shaven area afterwards. Razor burn flatters no man.