It's near impossible not to notice that men's facial hair has for some time now, moved along the trend cycle from a pinpoint of hipster uptake to mainstream ubiquity. Many formerly clean-shaven men are enjoying for the first time, the many perks of an outgrown visage: the convenience of no longer needing to shave daily; maintaining mandibular warmth in a blizzard; and most importantly, having an additional region of hair to define and project a personal aesthetic.
Upon growing a beard for the first time, or tinkering with an existing style, it becomes abundantly clear that no beard is created equal. Facial hair requires as much consideration and thoughtfulness as a regular crown top haircut to make the most of individual physical attributes. The best beard cut and style will enhance and accentuate a man's best features, and soften those of which he is less fond.
Your facial features are ultimately the most important considerations when pondering which beard style will be best for you. While no two faces are alike, a helpful way to figure out which will suit you best is by establishing your general face shape.
How to determine your face shape
The six main (very rudimental) face shapes are oval, round, rectangle, square, diamond and heart. The first four are fairly self-explanatory; diamond and heart shapes are ostensibly like those on a deck of cards (there's no need to find an indentation resembling a superior vena cava above your brow line).
Have a good hard look in the mirror. If it's not somewhat clear which shape describes your face best, rest assured that this is completely normal - you are not an emoji. You can also whip out a tape measure and determine your key proportions:
- Face length: Measure from the middle of the hairline above the forehead to the base of the chin.
- Forehead width: Measure the forehead from the edge of one side of the head's hairline to the other.
- Cheekbone to cheekbone: Measure the distance from the prominent point of one cheekbone to the other across the bridge of the nose.
- Jawline: This doesn't necessarily need to be measured, just observe the overall shape and prominence.
In a nutshell, if these measurements are fairly equal, you may have a square or round face, with the sharpness or softness of the jawline determining whether it's the former or the latter. Add a bit more length, and you're now in rectangle or oval territory. A fuller forehead and cheekbones with a narrower jawline tapering to the chin equate to a heart shape, and a diamond shape is largely the same but with a smaller forehead.
Without deferring to a one-size-fits-all approach, generally speaking, certain beard styles suit some face shapes better than others. Again though, the most important considerations are which features you're looking to highlight and which attributes you may be looking to downplay.
The Short and Cropped Beard
Best-suited face shapes: Oval, Heart, Diamond, Square, Rectangle
Facial hair foe: Irregular patches of absent hair growth
The short and cropped beard is well matched to almost all face shapes but isn't an ideal style if you're looking to provide some sharper definition to counteract a round face. The key is ultimately in the cut. A square-trimmed jaw and chin with shorter sides will play well to oval proportions, while a more rounded cropped beard can soften the blockish aesthetic of square and rectangular shaped faces if desired. Short cropped beards won't detract from the often pleasingly prominent cheekbones of men with a heart or diamond shaped visage, but can serve to beef up a proportionately weaker chin.
No matter your face shape though, a little more length is preferable if your facial hair grows out particularly patchy. Longer hair will assist to cover patchy spots.
The Medium Length Beard with A Boost of Volume
Best-suited face shapes: Round, Oval, Square, Rectangle
Facial hair foe: Unruly, overgrown beards without a well defined shape
The medium length beard packs a fair dollop of volume and is ideally matched to round and oval shaped faces, as well as square and rectangle reminiscent fronts. For a round-faced man, this style of beard can add some visible length and leanness, so long as the sides and neck regions are trimmed relatively shorter. A square trim at the chin and the neckline will create sharper angles to balance out a round face. And for a hypotenuse-heavy face, a rounded trim at the jaw and neckline will assist to soften the sharper angles of the visage if desired.
As beards become lengthier and voluminous, a visit to the barber is paramount. Think of it like tending a well-manicured hedge versus neglecting an overgrown shapeless shrub. Oftentimes a medium length beard trim won't involve a lot of hair removal but will predominantly focus on taming the shape and angles to frame your face best.
The Long Full-Bodied Beard
Best-suited face shape: Oval
Facial hair foe: Visibly lean faces
While there are always exceptions to the rule, broadly speaking, an oval shaped countenance is the best-suited canvas for the longer full-bodied beard. This style of beard can add unwanted length to blockier angled faces and may work against the proportions of diamond or heart framed facades. A well-trimmed shape, particularly on the sides, will ensure you steer clear of Santa Claus territory, and a clean-shaven neck will give a longer beard a polished and maintained aesthetic.
Like all beards, a longer style will require periodic trims to keep the shape in check and well defined. And take note that longer beards are ill suited to leaner looking faces, as they may serve to feed a hollowed-out aesthetic.
The Full Beard Alternatives
You don't necessarily need to grow a beard to embrace the chameleonic magic of facial hair. A variety of full beard alternatives can offer equally pleasing proportional enhancements and aesthetics to any face and are well suited to men looking to experiment with their look. From the mighty moustache and sprezzatura-evoking stubble to the beguiling goatee and the arresting anchor beard, the options are limitless. Many men with irregular facial hair growth, which often makes it difficult to fill out a full beard, are well served by these alternative facial hair styles.
To reap their full aesthetic potential, beards require as much care and attention as the hair of the crown.
- Beard shampoo specially cleanses facial hair without stripping its essential oils and natural moisture.
- Beard conditioner softens and smooths beard growth.
- Beard balms and beard brushes tame flyaway hairs and give shape and definition.
- Beard oils nourish, restore and protect facial hair and the underlying skin
- Periodic trims at a barbershop will maintain a polished and defined beard shape.
- Beards can be touched up at home between barbershop visits with beard scissors, trimmers and precision razors.