At the 76th Golden Globe awards, actors as diverse as Chris Pine, Steve Carrell, Idris Elba, Tony Shalhoub, Ricky Martin, John Krasinski, Michael B. Jordan, and the Dude himself, Jeff Bridges, shared one thing in common. Along with their variations of black tie, all sported some form of facial hair. The follicular range was vast — from post-two-week stubble (Elba) to the elegantly barbered (Carrell) to the sagaciously biblical (Krasinski). Though not as ubiquitous as last year (Bradley Cooper and Jim Carrey have whisked off their former Lincolnesque whiskers), beards are still so prevalent it was startling to see a face as pale and clean shaven as Globe winner Rami Malek’s.
Beards are hardly a Hollywood affectation. What was once a modern-day symbol of corporate rebellion is now conformity itself. According to Chris Salgardo, former brand president of Kiehl’s, which has long been a leader in men’s skin care, “almost 70 percent of Kiehl’s men’s clientele currently sport some kind of facial hair.” And their dominance is hardly confined to an urban landscape. I own a home 130 miles north of New York City on a gravel road closest to a town you can drive through faster than Taylor Swift can sing a chorus, and sometimes I think I’m only the man who walks into the local Rite Aid looking for razor blades.
I’m not here to pass judgment on whether beards are cool or not (though anything this popular draws suspicion), appealing or not (though several studiesreveal that women regard stubble as very sexy, long beards as a sign of parental stability and clean-shaven men as possibly less masculine), but rather because there is an illusion that needs a wake-up call – often every morning. Beards are a lot more work than shaving. Think of it as another head of hair, or the only one you have left. Either way, you need to take care of it properly.
But you have to be honest with yourself. Just as not every man looks as dashing as Yul Brynner or Pitbull with a shaved head, not every man benefits from a beard. First, you have to be physically able to grow one, and life is unfair. Not every man can. Those of you cursed with bald patches and excessively wiry stubble best beware and refrain.
However, for those able to produce a healthy chin lawn, there are several things to consider. At this point in life, your beard is likely to have at least as much, if not more, gray hair than what’s left on your head. More importantly, a beard will almost always make you appear a few years older. When one is 28 the illusion of maturity can be a bonus; when one is 56, it’s worth evaluating whether a beard adds distinction, swarthiness or simply age.
The reality is that maintaining a healthy, attractive beard requires more effort and more time than shaving regularly. Here is what you and your face must face to get the distinguished look you want.