Men and women differ in many ways. This is not groundbreaking. But even when it comes to shared experiences, like appearances, there are slight differences. Women have been “blessed” with the wonders of makeup. Different shades, colours, hues and combinations can change their faces from just woken up to “just woken up.” Men on the other hand, although not un-allowed to wear makeup, mainly have only have one real facial option: What, if any hair, is allowed to reside from cheekbone to jawline.
We’ll talk about the magic of the moustache (which will again cast a Movember shadow starting November 1st) another time, for today it’s all about the beard. Ear to ear, nose to neck, with nothing but confident smirking lips between. The look that says “I allowed this to happen.” The look of a man who embraces his hairy visage as a badge of honour. But the look of the beard can also tell you a lot about it’s owner, and the life they’re trying to lead.
5 O’Clock Shadow
This beard can be tricky, but there is a trick to determining the “reason” for the “5 o’clock shadow” look: What’s on the neck?
If a man walks past with equal amounts of stubble on the face and neck, one could take it at face value: He’s busy. Lazy isn’t the right word to use, because the shortness tells you he’s recently shaved the whole thing clean. This one is pretty easy to maintain, just shave once every couple of days and you’re good to go.
This does NOT apply when only the face is follicled. If you’ve got hair to the jaw, and nothing on the neck, you’d better believe that guy’s taking his time in the mirror in the morning. The “I worked 30 minutes to make it look like I didn’t work at all” look that’s usually accompanied by “bed head.” Keep an eye out for the neck, and you’ll know which is which.
This is the beard that takes commitment in time only. There are no “clean face” policies at work for this guy. That or he’s had a week of vacation to get past the 3-7 day stage that falls between 5 o’clock shadow and full. There is no trimming or shaping for this face, just a steady period of time for growth, nurturing, and getting past the “itchy” phase. Be kind to beard browers in the itchy phase, their irritation may spread past just their skin. Of course, once the crop is grown, it is ready to be harvested in whatever manner desired.
Once you’ve grown the full, you basically get to do whatever you want with it…but you HAVE to be careful during the trimming stage. Every man who’s ever grown a beard and tried to style it somehow can tell you of a time when they took off a little too much, and either had to change their plans, or abandon ship and start over with a blank slate, wasting weeks of cultivation. Disheartening to say the least. However, taking your time and focusing on the task at hand (or more correctly, the razor in your hand) can result in a buffet of beardom. The chin-strap, the Fu-Manchu, the goatee, Ultimate Burns®, all thanks to due process and patience. No matter the resulting product, respect must be shown to growers of these designs, if only for the time invested alone. Of course, you don’t have to stop there…
There’s a reason David Traver won the 2009 World Beard Championships. He spent 30 months growing his beard, and then wove it together. For what reason? No one can really say. But if you were to ever come upon such a specimen in real life, I would hope you would recognize it for the dedication it took. Did he wash it everyday? (We’d hope so.) Was he ever tempted to shave it off? What did it get caught in? All valid questions, and if I ever met him, I’d ask it all, after I shook his hand.
I’m currently in the middle of the cultivation stage as part of my Halloween get up. I had a head start thanks to laziness, and when I figured out what I was going to be, I thought even though a fake felt one would work, you just can’t beat the real thing. I’m keeping the neckline as clean as I can, and starting to trim out the stray hairs that are standing a little more at attention than the others. My hair comes in pretty coarse, so I’m trying to keep it off my girlfriend’s smooth-skinned face as much as possible. And I’m pushing through the itchy phase fairly easily this time. In three weeks it’ll be trimmed and shaped to the desired form, and 5 days after that, it’ll all be gone. A clean slate, just in time for Movember. (Apologies in advance to the Sig-O.)