A Guide to Great Facial Hair

OUR FACIAL HAIR PRIMER: One beard we love, the most flattering fuzz for your face, and the answer to the question, “Can a beard get you laid?”

Fact: There’s a period of American history known as the Bearded Age. It started when Abraham Lincoln, having been elected, said to his barber: “Billy, let’s give them a chance to grow.” The trend stuck. Over the next 50 years, every man (but one) in the Oval Office had some form of facial hair. Public officials aside, we now acknowledge a second Bearded Age. Here’s a tip sheet for getting it right.

1. Let’s start with a beard we love

Whistler mixologist Paul McGee
Nice beard: Whistler mixologist Paul McGee
Paul McGee, 41, master mixologist and co-owner of The Whistler, has one of the most envied beards in the city. And yet he and his barber, Jesselee Barrera at Belmont Barbershop, follow only a few simple steps to keep his unruly hairs at bay.

TRIMMING: “He wanted to keep his goatee area a little longer,” says Barrera, remembering McGee’s most recent cut. Using a restored set of Andis Master Clippers from the 1940s (new for $129.99 at andis.com), Barrera combs through McGee’s beard with a Speed-O Flattop comb ($0.95, at appletonbarbersupply.com) before cutting along the edges to give it shape. At home, McGee touches up every couple days with a Wahl T-Styler Pro trimmer ($29.99, at target.com). “Keeping it clean on the neck is really crucial,” McGee says.

STYLING: Barrera recommends rubbing in a little Suave Naturals conditioner ($2 at any pharmacy). “Comb it through and your beard will look good all day,” he says. McGee prefers Coconut Oil Hair Shine ($10, at thebodyshop-usa.com). “I just use it for the sides of my beard,” he says. “It basically helps flatten it down and makes it a little shiny.”

  NEXT: CAN A BEARD GET YOU LAID? »

RELATED: BEST HAIR SALONS AND STYLISTS | PHOTOS: CHICAGOANS WITH GREAT HAIR | SIX MAKEOVERSINSIDER TIPS | PERSONAL HAIR STORIES

 

Photograph: Taylor Castle

 

2. Then proceed to a crucial question: Can a beard get you laid?

The question dates back to Old Man Darwin, who wrote in 1871’s The Descent of Man that facial hair was clearly a result of sexual selection. Humans are the only primates with a chin—a feature that not even our early cousins the Neanderthals could grow. “There’s a lot of debate about whether the chin rose as a result of sexual selection,” says Zaneta Thayer, a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at Northwestern University, who has studied sexual dimorphism and chin shape. She says large chins are a result of “excess cortical bone formation,” which is driven by testosterone. Perhaps our chiseled ancestors outlived their chinless counterparts because the extra hormones made them bigger and more aggressive—and therefore more desirable. “It could have been a sign that you’re a high-quality mate,” she says, adding that beards may have helped the chin look even larger.

Fast-forward to modern times: In many cultures, beards remain a symbol of sexual vitality and masculinity. A 1970 paper published in the journal Nature, for example, compared rates of beard growth and the expectation of sex. After collecting and weighing his own shavings every 24 hours, the author, who was living on a remote island, claimed his beard grew faster the day before he planned to visit the mainland, where his potential for making whoopee increased. “Even the presence of particular female company in the absence of intercourse, after a period of separation, usually caused an obvious increase in beard growth,” he wrote. Then there’s a 2001 paper from the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior in which a researcher studied British beard fashions from 1842 to 1971 and concluded that men let their beards grow longer when they had trouble attracting spouses. Abundant facial hair, it seemed, offered the bachelors a way to stand out from other suitors. No word on whether this tactic was successful.

  NEXT: THE MOST FLATTERING FUZZ FOR YOUR FACE? »

RELATED: BEST HAIR SALONS AND STYLISTS | PHOTOS: CHICAGOANS WITH GREAT HAIR | SIX MAKEOVERSINSIDER TIPS | PERSONAL HAIR STORIES

 

 

 

3. Now let’s find the most flattering fuzz for your face

Shaving shaman Allan Peterkin, author of The Bearded Gentleman: The Style Guide to Shaving Face, offers some basic tips in choosing the ideal shape for your cranium.

ROUND FACE?
Strong vertical lines can create a slimming effect if kept thin. One common mistake is cutting the neck line too close below the jaw. Aim for halfway between your chin and Adam’s apple.

Facial hair for round faces
SUBTLE
Sideburns create the illusion of length by framing the face in parallel lines.
CLASSIC
A blocky goatee that’s squared at the bottom will strengthen your jaw line.
FULL THROTTLE
A full, pointed beard that hangs off the chin will make your face look longer if trimmed on the sides.

 

LONG, THIN FACE?
Avoid linear styles like sideburns, chin straps, goatees, or soul patches that have a pulling-down effect. A neatly groomed beard can give some balance—a thicker beard can lengthen your face even more.

Facial hair for long faces
SUBTLE
A good five o’clock shadow is a place to start.
CLASSIC
Try a midlength beard with a more curved finish, kept slightly thicker on the cheeks to add some width.
FULL THROTTLE
The Garibaldi: named after the grizzled early 19th-century Italian and his hirsute half-circle

 

LARGE MOUTH, NOSE, OR UPPER LIP?
Avoid thin lines—they make all big features look bigger—and go for a well-groomed mustache as a decoy. The general rule: It’s better to be Tom Selleck than Steven Tyler.

Facial hair for large mouth, nose, or upper lip
SUBTLE
The Pyramid: narrow at the top and wide at the bottom
CLASSIC
The Chevron: works best when it barely conceals the upper lip
FULL THROTTLE
The Walrus: Let it extend past the corners of your mouth, and no one will notice much else.

RELATED: BEST HAIR SALONS AND STYLISTS | PHOTOS: CHICAGOANS WITH GREAT HAIR | SIX MAKEOVERSINSIDER TIPS | PERSONAL HAIR STORIES

Illustrations: Jasmin Fuhr 

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