From smooth as a baby’s to super-alpha and shaggy, it’s all about how it makes you feel.
It used to be a really polarizing trend—either you loved it, or it never was your thing—but facial hair has undeniably been having its moment. The past few years, especially since the No-Shave November/#Movember movement for cancer awareness, have seen more and more men embrace nature’s course.
Whether unintentional or not, facial hair definitely makes a statement.
Some say a heavy amount of it denotes masculinity and aggression, even super-sexy; others think it’s off-putting and scraggly. However way you see it, chances are (if genetics permits) you’ll have to deal with it at one point in your life, so best know how to work it in style! Read on for a rundown of common facial hair looks and some tips on how to wear them:
7 Popular Facial Hair Looks
A clean-shaven look will always have a special place in the hearts of women everywhere, as there isn’t any itch factor to deal with. That said, it’s a look that has some corporate perks as well: Some say that having a clean-shaven, beardless appearance is more advantageous when applying for jobs, especially in conservative work settings. Regardless of whether your motivation is for work or play, no facial hair looks best on men with sharper features or who don’t need much definition. If you’ve got a babyface or have a rounder, fleshier face shape, zero facial hair might end up looking too juvenile, especially on older men.
Stubble can be quite the crowd-pleaser, depending on how deliberate it looks. Walking into the office with an unintentional, stayed-up-all-night 2-o’clock shadow might look unkempt, but an even, allover patina of stubble can seem, well, downright sexy. The gateway drug of beards, experimenting with some light stubble for a week or so can help you feel your way into having more (or less) facial hair. This can also be the end of the road for you, and if so, just make sure your jawline is around the same density as your moustache for a neater look.
Like stubble, a moustache can vary from pencil-thin to overly flamboyant, or from Italian cartoon plumber to all-out walrus, depending on personal preference. If you’re less hirsute/hairy, stick to a well-groomed kind that’s only as long as it is thick, as some men find it easier to work/live/drink foamy beer around them (also, less patchy = more attractive). It also has a more dapper feel, versus the retrosexual vibe of the 1970s fuzzy caterpillar ’stache, which can seem very caricature-like if you lack the self-awareness to match. For thicker-haired dudes, another popular, more decidedly hipster version is the full handlebar, which as far as facial hair trends go, has more of a vintage feel. The key to sporting any ’stache? Confidence and some proper grooming tools, which can range from regular soap and water to actual moustache wax.
Whether called the dentist beard (for the face mask) or a goatee (for billy goat gruff’s, er, scruff), a chin beard can be a great compromise for guys who want to be more aggressive with their facial hair but have limited options. Maybe you have a strict grooming code at the workplace, have an S.O. that isn’t a fan of the full-on wizard/Brooklyn lumbersexual look or even just want to reinforce a weaker chin, as is with rounder facial shapes; a goatee—which essentially is just a shorter, more sharply-manicured beard—can help make everyone happy. Yes, even including the little ones, who complain about daddy’s whiskers. Connect it to your ’stache for a sleeker appearance, and maybe look into beard softeners (usually in the form of oils), which can help men with thicker, coarser hair make life easier for those they nuzzle.
Sideburns, or the hair strips you have that extend from your hairline to the front of each ear, have the power to make or break your look. More aggressive sideburns—thicker, longer, heavier—give an Old World feel to your overall vibe, whereas thinner, neater sideburns look younger and more modern. Sideburns are measured via the ear (those that hit the top of the ear are short, and those that hit the bottom of the ear are considered long), and should be tailored via your face shape too, as they can accentuate a square jaw and overwhelm a round face (but can also look very manly and virile when connected to a full beard, especially on balding men). The most democratic way to wear them is via a subtle taper that stops a couple of inches before the beard starts; otherwise, ask your barber to blend them into your stubble at your next hair appointment for a more seamless transition.
6. Full Beard
Facial hair that’s fully connected to your sideburns and completely covers the chin and jawline area, mostly with a moustache, is called a full beard. It usually has a more rounded shape and takes anywhere from two months to a year (fondly referred to as a yeard) to grow in and gain an even density, depending on your genes. Some men with wider faces prefer a full beard that’s tapered to a point in the center—aka. a ducktail beard—but otherwise, a natural, trimmed look that follows your jawline flatters most face shapes.
7. Long/Terminal Beard
No, it’s not called going full magician: A long, full beard that grows to the maximum your genes allow is referred to as a terminal beard. It’s unapologetically alpha and can denote everything from aggression to maturity and wisdom. Beards are measured in months, not inches, and this, my friend, is the ultimate exercise in patience. Be conservative with trimming—a little off the bottom after the first month will do, and only if you’re not going for the natural, grown-out look. Yes, you will look shaggy for a while as it can take years to grow in a decent, respectable terminal beard, but as the name suggests, once in, you’re set for life. Go do you!
Looking for even more styling ideas? Check out some tips in our post on male grooming 101.