William Shakespeare, Ernest Hemingway, Vincent van Gogh, Jesus Christ – just a few of the notable gents throughout history who’ve sported beards. And if you look around the streets these days, you'll see that plenty of Sydneysiders are following suit.
But you don't get brilliant facial hair by simply chucking out your razor and sitting back and enjoying your bristles. Just like the hair atop your head, you need to look after your beard.
Patrick Casey knows this all too well. He has been maintaining hair (of both the face and scalp variety) for the past 10 years, including a four-year stint at Pimps & Pinups in London. Last year, he set up shop at Cleveland's, a combined cafe and barbershop that, these days, is servicing a growing number of bearded customers.
So you've passed that annoying itchy period and your five o'clock shadow has turned into a fully-fledged beard. What's next? Casey advises some initial simple steps: “For me, I think that common sense applies to maintenance. Yes, you should wash your beard (though not with a harsh soap as it will dry both your skin and your beard), so an organic beard-specific wash and conditioner is what I would recommend. For those that have extra dry, frizzy or coarse hair, you can use an oil or gloss which settles and shapes ends,” he says.
Aside from washing, brushing your beard is also very important. “Shaping of the beard is paramount to accentuate a full and tailored piece of face furniture, so at a length longer than an inch, you should give it a good comb to curb 'bed beard', as you should do with any moustache that extends past the length of the lip line of the upper lip,” he advises.
But watch out for some common pitfalls. Casey sees a lot of folks getting it wrong and he advises against cutting too close to the jaw line, leaving stray hairs around the mouth and upper lip, and not regularly combing your beard, which will result in the aforementioned 'bed beard'.
This all begs the question, can you do it all yourself, or should you only trust a professional? Casey says that it's all about the result. “The beard should be shaped to accentuate your desirable attributes, tight under the chin to accentuate jaw line, shaped at the point of the chin to enhance chin prominence, and be tighter through the sides to make you appear slimmer. Ideally, this should be done by your barber or hairdresser, though maintenance is often required to keep your beard looking neat and tidy between visits.”
And if you are going to do it yourself, Casey recommends having implements such as a barber comb, small scissors, wax or gloss (for full handlebar moustaches) on hand, not to mention a set of clippers and guards. He also advises: “Conditioners to soften the hair are of the upmost importance to maintain a streamline form and also for an optimum texture (soft and shiny), which is easier on the eye.”
But what to do if your beard is slow-growing? It's actually a quite common problem, as not everyone goes to bed and wakes up looking like a lumberjack. “I have had clients who take care to supplement hair growth with silica (which promotes healthy keratin growth), multi-vitamins and a variety of oils, like fish oil, to promote thickness, density and quality of hair growth,” Casey says.
And as for why you should take care of your beard, or even have one in the first place, Casey suggests, “Beards are a great adornment that can speak volumes to who you are and how you wish to be perceived in the world. They are a celebration of masculinity and I'm glad to see them come back into prominence.”
So there you have it, gentlemen. No excuses for wandering around with unwashed, uncombed and unshaped facial hair. Simply follow Casey's advice and you too can have a great looking beard that's easy on the eye.