In 2014, evolutionary biologists claimed men had reached ‘peak beard’. The days of Brian Blessed facial hair styles was nigh, they said, hirsute hipsters had had their day. They even used sciencey terms to bamboozle the bearded into thinking that pretty soon their bristles would see them lumped them in with the weird and the long-term unemployed.
Of course, that prediction was as reliable as a Michael Fish weather report. Because here we are, several years on and still admiring chin carpets like they’re going out of fashion (which, just to be clear, they’re not).
So to guide you in the right direction of the best facial hair for men, here are the five top facial hair styles every man needs to know and key factors to consider before diving into your journey for whiskers.
How to Choose the Right Facial Hair Style
While it may be tempting to just start growing facial hair and see where it takes you, we’d advise narrowing the pool and choosing a facial hair style that will truly suit you.
When it comes to choosing the best facial hair style, these are the key considerations to keep in mind:
Before settling on a facial hair style, you’ll want to make sure that you can actually grow it. If you struggle to grow tons of facial hair, or have significant patches in your growth, you’ll want to forego more full beard styles and stick to a short beard or goatee.
On the other hand, if you grow lots of hair rapidly, stubble probably isn’t the ideal style for you.
It’s important to base your facial hair style around what you can actually grow and maintain. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for failure right off the bat.
After you assess how much hair your face is capable of growing, you should think about your actual face shape. While some facial hair styles may look striking on one face shape, they can be totally wrong for another.
Choosing a beard based on your face shape is the smartest route to take. It ensures that the style you select fits your frame and accentuates your features, rather than dulls them down.
At the most basic level, men with longer, rectangular faces will do well when it comes to width heavy beards rather than longer ones, while men with a rounder face may be best suited to a beard that’s shorter around the cheeks and longer near the chin.
You may be wondering why the heck you should think about your skin type when we’re talking about facial hair, but you’d be surprised at what an impact this consideration can have on your look.
If you’re a man with more sensitive skin, it will serve you well to choose a facial hair style that doesn’t take tons of trimming, shaving or maintenance. This greatly decreases the likelihood of skin irritation and walking around with razor bumps on your face.
Finally, think about how much time you want to spend on your beard each day. If you have a five minute morning routine, you’ll want to pick a low maintenance beard style that looks great right out of the shower like a simple mustache or goatee.
If you have a little more time to spend each morning in front of the mirror, you can choose a more time intensive facial hair style, like stubble, which requires frequent (if not daily) shaves and trims, or a long beard which needs more time and attention.
Best Facial Hair Styles To Consider
1. The Shorter Long Beard
Beards of a bushiness to rival Rasputin’s are, like the Russian mystic, dead and buried. Which is a godsend for those who always felt a bit ridiculous sporting one anyway. Instead, experts in the barbering world are predicting that this year will see a calmer, more controlled version come to the fore.
Who’s It For?
The hirsute. “This style only works if you have extensive facial hair growth,” says Robinson. “It’s a good way of concealing a smaller chin, a double chin or elongating a rounder face; but if you have a longer face, choose a beard that’s a bit shorter.”
How To Get It
Aside from Miracle-Gro (which we really, really don’t suggest putting on your face), you’ll need patience, primarily. As the longest men’s facial hair style on this list, it could take few months to grow to the required length.
“Just make sure that during this time, you don’t remove any weight or hair from the interior of the beard (especially underneath between the chin and neck),” says Robinson. “It’s this hair that will eventually form the foundations and support the full beard. Also, only trim the lines on the cheeks if they are growing too high up.” Once you’ve grown and trimmed your beard to suit your face, care is key.
“Use a moisturising beard shampoo once every few days to help the beard retain its moisture, otherwise it could flake and cause beard dandruff,” warns Robinson. “While damp, run some beard oil through it with your hands to keep it moist.” For more thorough styling, and to iron out any madcap kinks or curls, you could apply some hair paste. “Add this to a damp beard and blow dry on medium power while brushing to relax the hairs. Not only will this make your beard appear longer, but it will also make it easier to shape and style.”
2. The Short Beard
Despite giving off an IDGAF appearance, big beards take a lot of time and care to maintain – “especially the shape and fullness,” says Pall Mall Barbers general manager Daniel Davies. “Shorter beards, however, are often easier to care for.”
Toned-down facial hair (think Ryan Gosling or Aaron Paul) can slip in with most hairstyles, and offers a versatile look that appears both smart and rugged at the same time. “[A short beard] follows the face’s angles, and the beard is kept close to the cheeks, with the hair measuring around 1cm long,” says Robinson. “As the beard approaches the chin, it is left slightly longer to elongate the face and give the beard a more masculine shape.”
Who’s It For?
Good growers, as it were. While a shorter beard style won’t require you be the facial hair equivalent of Fabio, you’ll still need ample coverage.
“You need to be able to grow a full face of hair for this, as you want to avoid any patches and uneven lines,” says Robinson. “In terms of face shape suitability, generally speaking, this style is achievable and adaptable, and one we’ll be seeing plenty of.”
How To Get It
As a wise man (probably) once said, “A watched beard never grows”. Or something like that. So you’ll be happy to hear it shouldn’t take much longer than a month to lay the foundations for this one.
It does, however, require upkeep once in full bloom. “You’ll need fortnightly trims, done either by your barber or at home with a set of decent trimmers,” explains Robinson. “You’ll also need to keep your skin in good nick, so make sure you exfoliate and moisturise around the beard, and that you use a beard oil or beard balm to keep the individual hairs hydrated.”
Bonus tip: “For extra definition above the cheeks, use a set of detailers to get a nice sharp line,” says Robinson.
3. The Moustache
Long derided as the preserve of Tom Selleck and 1970s porn stars, the moustache –thanks to initiatives like Movember and a general backlash against the ubiquity of beards – is making a triumphant return. And the decision isn’t so much whether to wear one, but how to wear it.
“Leaving your hair to grow more pronounced on the upper lip provides contrast and shape, whether you choose to juxtapose it with an otherwise clean-shaven face or a well-groomed beard,” says Robinson.
Who’s It For?
Provided you have the means to grow your facial hair, and the patience to groom it, a moustache suits most men. And there are plenty of variations so you can tweak yours to your taste.
But do think about whether a moustache fits with your personal style before committing. “A moustache is probably going to work better with your look if you tend to dress quite smartly rather than wearing activewear and trainers,” says Robinson. Otherwise you look like a Crystal Maze character from 1992.
How To Get It
Sit tight, because this facial hair style is going to grow on you. Literally. For about half a year. “The best way to grow a moustache is simply leaving it, for roughly six to eight months,” says Robinson.
“Never trim above the lip; just train the hairs out to either side of the philtrum. You should use a moustache comb to straighten it out now and then, and apply wax to keep it in shape and glossy.” If the prospect of a traditional ‘tache is too much, try softening the blow by framing it within an existing beard. “It’s a modern take on an historic classic,” says Davies. See Henry Cavill’s top lip for inspiration.
Looking for something that sits between a clean-shaven facial hair style and the statement of full fuzz? Or maybe you like having a beard, but your boss isn’t so buzzed about it. Then it might be time to enlist some designer help.
Who’s It For?
And it’s versatile to boot. “Designer stubble won’t dictate your hairstyle as much as having an actual beard would.”
How To Get It
“Allow your hair to grow until it gets itchy, and note where your hair growth begins, ends, is patchy or uneven,” says Robinson. “Use the lines created by your bone structure to help guide where you want to keep the stubble, and wet shave everything else.”
Use a good quality razor for the cheek lines. When shaving the stubble down to the desired length, use a set of beard trimmers (with the guard set to about 3mm-5mm) and make sure to clean the guards and the razor head after use. Otherwise, it could pick up bacteria and cause irritation or an infection.”
Alternatively (and especially if you suffer from shaving rash) try a short stubble beard without lining, but tapering the length instead. “This suits guys that have a chiselled face which needs softening,” says Davies. “Fade the neck and cheeks on a shorter grade to soften the whole face.”
If you do swap wet shaving for a short stubble beard, remember to care for your skin also. “You should use an exfoliator to lift the hair,” says Davies. “This prevents ingrown hairs and should be followed by a light moisturiser worked into both the face and stubble.”
Sideboards, side whiskers, mutton chops. Whatever name you know them by, you’re probably at a loss as to why we’re suggesting this Victorian staple for a modern-day mug. Hear us out.
Who’s It For?
Like we said, not everyone. But from a face shape perspective, sideburns are pretty egalitarian. “They are especially good for longer faces as they broaden its appearance,” says Gibson.
How To Get It
“The length of the sideburns should reflect how subtle or extreme you want the effect to be,” says Gibson. “It’s always best to reference your choice of length with a feature on the face such as the lip line or jawline. Small clippers or detailers are good for maintaining the length as the blade is small but sharp and ideal for outlining.”
“It’s best to get a stylist to do this for you,” says Gibson. “Especially if you’re going to change from a full beard.”
Illustrations by Leon Bowers for FashionBeans.