A Modern Man’s Guide to Beards

Whether you’re sprouting a Galifianakis or a just a little stubble, here’s everything you need to know to keep your face in check

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For years, the clean-cut man-boy was ruling the runway. Parted hair, waifish waist, skin smooth as a Botoxed three-year-old. Then a gritty crew rolled in and changed the game. With it, the beard invasion began. Whether we’re talking about a thick, irreverent Galifianakis or a jawline-amping mown lawn, a beard is just about the most on-trend accessory you can pull on this season. And while they look great on a beanie-and-cardigan-wearing gang like Fleet Foxes, they’re not just for dudes who dress down. “When a guy wears one with a suit, it’s just like, whoa is that sexy,” GQfashion director Madeleine Weeks explains. “They give you this handsome, don’t-mess-with-me appeal. Just look at Jeff Bridges, Paul Newman, and Cat Stevens (pictured above). All icons who wore them well.” The key is not overanalyzing it. Nothing too manicured or manscaped. Nothing too wild and overgrown. You want to look like you’ve let go.

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“Beards show that you’re the independent type and possibly self-employed, seeing as how facial hair is frowned upon in certain uptight conformist corporations: the New York Yankees, for example. Consider Ben Roethlisberger. He made the mistake that many beard wearers commit: He shaved his neck almost up to the chin. Men think this always sharpens the outline of their face and even makes them look thinner. Wrong! This is the worst thing a guy with the slightest weight issue can do. The shaved neck makes you look like you have a double chin.”

The Blind Barber, NYC

Chances are you’re going to need a little sculpting here and there. A little on the cheeks, a little on the neck depending on the kind of look you’re going for. Ideally, you’d leave that all to a pro. A hot shave once a week isn’t realistic for most of us, though. Beard-sensei Nick Wendel from The Blind Barber—esteemed NYC barbershop/speakeasy hybrid—lays down some ground rules for taking matters into your own hands.

DO:  “If you want to sculpt super-close, there’s no alternative to a straight razor. Buy one from The Art of Shaving and they’ll tell you everything you could possibly need to know to avoid a Sweeney Todd situation. A number of regular razors come with a single blade on the back for sculpting,”

Don’t: “It seems like a no-brainer, but so many guys treat shaving like a race and end up with nicks. Take the few extra seconds to add water to your shaving cream for an extra-smooth shave, and always go with the grain.”

Do: “Use a hot towel to open the pores before you sculpt and a cold towel—or a cold rinse—to close your pores after. This keeps ingrown hairs, redness, and nicks in check.

Don’t: “Never squeeze ingrown hairs like they’re pimples. Dirt in your nails can lead to infection.”

Do: “When you have an ingrown hair, put a hot towel on your face, disinfect the spot with some alcohol, take a tweezer, and go at it. Grab the hair as close to the base as possible to pull the bulb out. If you yank it from the top, you’ll just split the hair in half, and then you’re screwed.”—As told to Stelios Phili

How to get the perfect fade

Yes, you can use your beard trimmer to get a perfect fade. Dzenad “Geno” Bicic of Geno’s Barberia, in New York’s West Village, breaks it down

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Step one: Buzz it
“Set guard to 3 and buzz your whole beard.”

Step two: Clean lower neck
“Switch guard to 1 and buzz from your Adam’s apple to two inches below your jaw.”

Step three: Fade it
“Switch guard to 2 and buzz that remaining two-inch area, finessing and fading the 1 zone into the 3 zone.”

Step four: Remove strays
“Remove guard (the 0 setting) and buzz below your Adam’s apple and any strays on the sides of your neck.”

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In the market for a solid, no-mess trimmer? The built-in vacuum in this Norelco ($60, phillips.com) swallows clipped hairs before they fly all over your bathroom floor. One quirk: This guard operates in millimeters rather than traditional barbershop guard numbers. (Start at 9mm for No. 3.)

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The Bearded Truth: Three Myths ,Debunked

New York dermatologist Dr. David Colbert sets us straight on three common beard misconceptions—including that Seinfeld thing about shaving. No, razors don’t turn you into a were-man

Myth #1: Certain foods make your beard grow quicker

“No food or vitamin makes the beard grow faster. However, we do need amino acids or protein in our diet to grow hair. For instance, guys who are anemic often experience beard thinning.”

Myth #2: If you shave more often, your facial hair will get fuller

“Shaving absolutely does not make your hair grow at any different rate. One reason it might seem that way? If you shave often, you’re feeling the prickly sensation of hair growing back more frequently.”

Myth #3: Gray beards are coarser

“If anything, our follicles become smaller as we age. Gray beards are not much different than regular ones, structurally speaking. If a Santa-like beard seems coarse, it’s just because it hasn’t been conditioned properly or is full of split ends. (Yep, you can get those with facial hair, too.)”—As told to Andrew Richdale

Maintaining a Perfect 5 0″clock Shadow

“I have a few friends for whom it is permanently cocktail hour, and it is only because my wife tells me that I look like a bum with a shadow around my smile that I do not have a permanent .25-millimeter beard. The noted artist Jean-Paul Goude got what I believe he calls his pas rasé look by using an electric clipper with a very short head on it. That is the most reliable method.”

And Now a Brief Meditation on Stubble

It’s like you’re too busy. Not that you are, exactly, but that’s the idea. You could shave every day, sure, but that’s ten minutes on the front-end that you’d lose, outright. That’s time you could spend answering email, or the inverse: sitting with your coffee, quietly, device off. You could beat the traffic or catch an earlier train. But again, this isn’t the point; it’s the idea. It’s the fantasy of a social calendar so full it doesn’t have room for a few quick licks of the razor.

Not that you care that much. You don’t. But you like it—no mistaking that. On your better days, you think it makes you look a bit like Patrick Dempsey (yet you’re only vaguely sure who that is). On your worse days, you’re too hung over to care. For the most part, it doesn’t matter, because this isn’t a choice you need to defend. You chose nothing. Beard? No, just didn’t get around to it.Yeah, I know the line. I use it too.

But let’s be honest: You shave on Saturday for a reason. Because by Monday, it’s a thing. And by Friday, it a serious thing. And in those intervening days, you can rub your hand across your cheek and feel the soft resistance of an oncoming beard, the 5 o’clock-the-next-day shadow. Or she can. And she does.* And we don’t really have time to argue.—Mark Byrne

* Or does she? More on that later…

 Soften Up

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Fact: The hair on your face is not the same as your scalp. So no need to treat it as such with whatever shampoo you have lying around. “All you want is a ‘gentle hair’ conditioner to keep your hair soft.” Martial Vivot from Martial Vivot Salon Pour Hommes in New York explains. He recommends Phyto’s Phytobaume conditioner ($22, sephora.com). Apply it in the shower just like you would the regular stuff. It has special proteins that help you dodge the itchy stage in the beginning. It’ll keep things less bristly as you gain some length. And there’s nothing about it that tastes foul, which, if you’ve got a beard of the “soup strainer” variety, is an important consideration.—A.R.

What a Girl Wants

Your beard will be met with opinions. And no one is going to have more of them than her. Here, two women give their take on the matter

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I don’t remember the episode in which Vinnie Bonitardi first appeared on Blossom but I was probably around 9 or 10, and I do recall experiencing, in an arm-hair-raising way, my first understanding of the word sexy. It took me a few more episodes to figure out why. Vinnie’s hotness had something to do with the leather jacket and the torn Dungarees and the messed up hair, but mostly it had to do with the scruff. What Vinnie had wasn’t even a full beard, but the hint of one, just enough to get the idea that this was a guy who couldn’t be bothered. And, for the love of all clichés, who doesn’t want to win the attention of that guy? David Lascher, the actor who played Vinnie, is now clean shaven and looks like he belongs on the trading floor in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. No matter. When I admire a scruffy Mark Ruffalo or Viggo or even Ryan Gosling, it’s Vinnie Bonitardi I’m really pining for.—Sarah Goldstein It’s not like I mind the look of beards, especially from a healthy distance of ten electric razors fashioned into some sort of eight-foot-long pole. I understand that a face thatch is a cheap way for men to hide a gamut of imperfections: jowls, acne scars, chin butt, their age. But have you ever seen that vacuum commercial where the camera “penetrates” a seemingly clean carpet? To expose the dust and mites hiding deep between the fabric hairs? I’m attempting a metaphor here. I’ve dallied with a couple bearded men. There’s inevitably food in their chin bibs after a meal. Scraps. Crumbs. Treats for later you might say, if you’re disgusting. The girlfriend of a bearded man can either go full Mother Ape and finger groom, or be at peace with nuzzling a doggie bag. Neither option is desirable.—Lauren Bans

Know When to Take it All Off

Great as beards are—and we could go on another millennium about how much we dig them—the truth is they’re not for every guy. Specifically they’re not for guys who can’t grow them fully. There’s nothing worse than a dude with a mold-like mess of patches all over his face. And, so, for the follicly-challenged out there, a quick guide to naked face essentials.—A.R.

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The Cream: Kyoku’s sake-infused shave cream lands on your face like little grassy clouds. Thick as it is, it won’t clog up your razor, either.

The Blade: The folks at Schick will sing the praises of the Xtreme3’s scented handle. What you’re actually going to dig is its smooth glide, which is made possible by a pre-shave oil strip. The citrus wafting from the handle is basically undetectable.

The After-Shave: Aesop’s hydrating post-shave lotion is lighter than a cream but just thick enough that you still get a good tingle. It also happens to be some of the best-smelling stuff we’ve ever slapped on.

 

Styles to suit your face

Beard Styles

Just as men can buy different styles of jeans or a certain type of leather jacket, men can also style their facial hair differently. There are many different types of facial hair styles men can consider when it comes to their overall look. By altering the hair on the face, men can play up or avoid a number of different features on their face.

By knowing and examining your facial structure and purchasing a good razor, any man can successfully pull off a number of different facial hair styles.

The square face type has a lot of options when it comes to experimenting with different facial hair styles. The light, all over beard is one of the most popular. Having hair all over (but not too much of it) helps to minimize the boxy face shape, and look more masculine and tough. The key here is clipping the hair very close to the face, so you still look clean, but just have a slight layer of scruff. This look can be achieved by growing the facial hair out for a few weeks, and then use clippers to shorten it close to the skin. Some men like to do this style and keep it a little thicker around the chin and mouth area. This style is sleek, while also providing an effortless look and appearance. Not to mention, once you’ve grown the hair out and trimmed it down, this look really doesn’t take a lot of effort to maintain.

Rectangular or long faces also look good with a little extra hair. If you have this particular face shape, a beard is a great way to balance out your features. This also creates the appearance that your face is more oval than it actually is, which is an excellent feature.

The Five O’Clock Shadow is a difficult look to pull off, but those who do can look extremely cool. This distinguished look can appear effortless and sexy when done right. Longer, oval faces pull this look off very well. However, attention needs to be paid when working on the five o’clock shadow look. Some try to pull it off and can just look sloppy or like it is there by mistake.

Round faces need to use facial hair styles to show off more masculinity. Shaving hair on the jaw and neckline is an excellent style to use. However, when working to bring out your masculine features, it is important to maintain the look and keep the rest of your skin smooth. You’ve got to grow your facial hair out, while continuously shaving your chin and neck. This can be a slightly awkward look in the beginning. Sometimes it’s better to use a barber to get started, and then go from there.

Facial hair is an excellent feature to make the most of your looks. While knowing the proper structure of your face is important, the key in successfully pulling off new facial hair styles definitely comes down to the razor. The sharpest, most effective razors will do the best job. So throw those disposables away, because styled facial hair is a definite way to look and feel your best.