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Author’s note: The image of MAN above is not me. In fact, if you don’t know who that is, please leave this site…you don’t belong here.
There you’ve been, cooped up in your house for the last 4 months, protecting yourself and the ones you love from the ‘rona (or at least I hope you have…if not, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?), and like many of your fellow men, are thinking about, or have decided to take, this opportunity and grow out the beard that you have always longed for. Or…you just got lazy, stopped shaving, and are now sporting a runaway face-glove that you never really planned, but are trying to decide whether or not to keep.
As the owner/operator of a beard for many years now…I have learned a lot, mostly from trial and error, so I will share what I discovered along the way. I will also offer forth some rules that I believe every proudly bearded man should follow, or at least consider, in the care and feeding of his chin whiskers.
Take note…I said BELIEVE…these are my opinions, and should be treated as such; ask 35 different bearders how they maintain their mane and I almost guarantee you’ll receive 35 different answers.
First…let’s discuss whether you should have a beard in the first place. There are a few things to consider:
How Does it Grow?
When you don’t shave, how does your beard start to grow in? If your stubble is patchy and weird looking, please do yourself a favor, stop reading this, and go shave. Revel in that clean, smooth feeling that your SO will love (I have NEVER felt my girlfriend’s hand on the lower half of my face…think about that for a minute).
If you have a nice, even stubble after a few days of foregoing the razor, you can be reasonably confident that your beard will continue to grow thusly.
How does your Significant Other Feel About it?
Trust me, whether your SO loves it or hates it, you WILL hear about it. Feel like constantly arguing and never getting kissed again? Go ahead and grow that sumbitch out even after your SO has told you how much they can’t stand it…and revel in the feeling of being alone together. On the other hand, if your SO likes it…be prepared to get complimented and have their hand lovingly stroking it on the regular.
Don’t yet have a Significant Other? Rejoice! You only have yourself to answer to and keep happy. This is a great time to try it out, see how it grows and looks, and gauge the effect it has on your romantic endeavors. It will repel some, attract others, and for a certain subset of paramours, prove almost irresistible.
Is it Acceptable at Work?
You’ve likely been working from home for the past several months, and aside from the occasional video call, have had little to no face time with your boss or coworkers, so your appearance has taken a backseat. However, at some point you WILL go back to work, and if beards are verboten, or at the very least frowned upon, it would be heart-breaking to shave off the beard that you’ve come to love.
Are You Ready to Commit to Your Beard?
When people compliment mine, I shrug and say “It’s a labor of love”…and they laugh and go on about their day thinking about how they or their boyfriend would look with such a manly facial coiffure. But I am not kidding when I say that! Growing and maintaining a beard is an investment; in time, patience, and money. It will take effort to get your beard looking the way you want it, and even more so to keep it that way.
So…are you ready for all that? Yes?
Congratulations and welcome to the club!
Now that you’ve made the decision to own your manhood, and join the ranks of such great men as Hemingway, U.S. Grant, and Castro, you’ve got some work to do. A well-kept beard can impart wisdom, manliness, and a distinguished countenance that clothes, shoes, or even hairstyle cannot. An unkempt beard will make you look lazy, sloppy, or like you should be living in a mountain shack working on the 5th draft of your manifesto. So here are the rules as I see them. These are the rules that I follow, deride my man-children for not following, and suggest to friends and admirers who ask how they too can achieve such magnificence.
Trim Your Beard
This is THE most important rule you can follow. Many make the mistake of letting their beard grow wild and free, especially when first starting on the journey to manliness. It is especially easy to let this one slide during our current pandemic situation, more so if you’re single, working from home, and have no one but yourself to impress. But as with your car, your house, or relationships, maintenance is key.
As your beard grows, you’re going to notice whiskers going in all directions. Some will grow longer than others and stick out at weird angles. One side of your face will grow faster than the other. Keeping your beard even is the name of the game, and if you let it get out of control, doing so will be that much harder.
Reigning in an unruly beard can often lead to the common rookie mistake of trimming too much; trying to even up the sides and bottom each in turn and before you know it, losing all of that magnificent progress. Trimming it often, at least every other week, will keep you from getting the aforementioned manifesto author look, and make every trim thereafter easier.
Personally, I use a Philips Norelco trimmer. It’s not the fanciest or most expensive, but it does everything I need it to. I could write so much more on trimming techniques, but everyone develops their own, and this is more about the rule than the method.
Side note on trimming – FIND A PROPER BARBER. Not your girlfriend’s hairdresser, or SuperCuts. I mean an actual barber that knows how to use a straight razor and what to do with a hot towel. You can get tips and tricks on trimming your beard, and if you become a regular and tip well, you will likely get a gratis beard trim each time you get a haircut.
Clean and Condition Your Beard
Why would you treat your face-mane any different than the hair on top of your head? You wash, condition, and probably use some type of pomade, paste, or wax on your hair, right? If you don’t, please do us all a favor, put this article down, and go back to middle school and re-learn how to be a human being.
Despite your best efforts, your beard WILL collect dirt, food, liquids (including beer and whiskey if you’re doing it right) and other such substances, and if not properly cared for will soon smell like a bathroom at the State Fair. Also, as you may have noticed, the hair on your face has a different look and feel than the hair on your head, and unless you want it feeling like the brush your grandpa uses to clean the backyard grill, certain products are necessary.
I prefer Duke Cannon wash, oil and balm. They have a pleasing aroma without being overpowering, and keep my beard soft and manageable without being oily. I have also used Bossman products in the past; they come a close second. There are MANY products available out there, and as with anything else, you should find the make and model that works for you. Frequency of use will depend on personal preference, but the rule is: USE IT.
Another note – Use a comb and get a proper beard brush, preferably one with boar bristles that is especially made for the job. Used with a good balm or oil, the comb and brush will help straighten the whiskers and keep your beard smooth and looking sharp.
Continue to Shave
Just because you’re growing out a long, luxurious beard, doesn’t mean you can neglect the rest of your face. Doing so will just give you that “I said fuck it and threw my razor out the window” look. Depending on how far up your face and down your neck your whiskers grow will determine how much you need to shave, but the trick to sporting a great beard is keeping the line between whiskers and skin sharp. Determine the path you want your beard to follow along your cheeks, and shave above that. Do the same for your neck. And please, for the love of all that is man, DO NOT LET YOUR BEARD GROW ALL THE WAY DOWN YOUR NECK. The term neckbeard was coined for a reason, and none of us have any doubt that it’s a bad thing. Use your trimmer to create a line, preferably where your chin meets your neck, and shave below that.
Be Prepared For People to Say Weird Shit About It
Okay…this is more of a warning than a rule, but is definitely something you should be prepared for. Once you have grown your beard, and are out among people (once doing so is safe) flying your man flag proudly upon your chin, people will notice, and comment on it. Strange men will sidle up to you at your kids’ High School open house (true story) and ask you who your barber is and how you keep your beard looking so great. Women will shout “nice beard!” from balconies; people you would rather avoid will ask if they can touch it. Most of this will only serve to reinforce your decision, but some will truly creep you out.
If you can grow a beard, and want to, then DO IT. But as with any endeavor that man embarks upon, do it well. Care about your appearance and act accordingly. Take care of yourself and keep your shit tight. There’s no shame in trying and failing and trying again until you get it right, but there is shame in being lazy, sloppy, or indifferent.
Until next time…
Take Care of Your Shit