If the temperatures of fall and winter, along with the irresistible opportunity to wear rugged boots and layer V-necks, flannels, and leather, had you feeling like it was time to get scruffy, then you shared those feelings with the masses. As literally every human knows, the trend of being bearded is at max-capacity, with seemingly every man who harnesses the ability to grow facial hair doing so (and leaving the ones who would get fired from their job, or those with less-than-impressive growing abilities wishing they could). But now that it’s warming up, should you put your beard away until next fall, along with your flannel?
If you are a bearded-by-trend guy, then there are two words for you: shave it.
If you are a bearded-by-lifestyle guy, then there are two words for you: keep it.
Now it may seem like there is no distinction, or that the above might be a general Internet typo. There is, and it’s not. “Some men out there have beard because their grandfathers and fathers had beards — and that’s the idea of tradition and masculinity for them,” explains Brett David, creative director of whiskey and beard-themed bar Rochelle’s in New York’s Lower East Side. “Others have a beard because someone told them to grow it.”
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If you are a trend-beard guy, then chances are that the choices regarding your appearance are made predominately by what someone (or something) has told you looks good. Your look is based on what’s in fashion, but not quite yet in the mainstream. You wore scarves after first seeing photos of Johnny Depp at the Pirates 3 premiere in 2007, and stopped before the rest of the crowd caught up (meanwhile Johnny Depp became entirely made of scarves by 2013). You wore pastel pink while being secure in your masculinity before anyone had the shudder-inducing idea to stamp “Real Men Wear Pink” on a muscle tee. You, trend-setter, understand that by the time everyone is wearing a trend, that trend has lost its effect. Science understands this as well, as applied to the beard. A study published in Biology Letters in April 2014 concluded that:
“Attractiveness ratings for styles of facial hair changed in response to their frequency. When beards were rare, hirsute faces were more attractive than when beards were common, and beards achieved intermediate attractiveness in the even treatment. Conversely, when clean-shaven faces were rare, clean-shaven faces and light stubble enjoyed their greatest attractiveness, and beards became less attractive. There was not an inversion of preferences, such as clean-shaven faces becoming more attractive than beards when rare and clean-shaven faces were rated lowest in all treatments. However, the mean attractiveness of a suite of faces is altered by the frequency of beards.”
This means that if you are currently sporting a beard solely for the attractiveness of the trend, then you need to jump ship and shave. Since clean-shaven or stubbled faces are becoming less common, they are scientifically more attractive and trendy. Even women think so: An eBay Fashion survey found that more than half of women they spoke with wished that there were fewer beards out there. Besides, how are you going to transition into spring and summer clothes while attempting to maintain a rugged mountain look? What is the warm-weather equivalent to layering flannels and wearing boots? Chinos and sweaty beard hair don’t seem like a flattering combination — especially for wooing women.
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But for the man who finds his happiness in his hair, not in his threads, there’s no reason to rid yourself of what works for you, lifestyle-beard guy. There has to be someone left to uphold the beard’s attractiveness once everyone else smartens up and shaves — and those will be the men who remain deep in the beard culture, not just the trend. David, who hasn’t shaved in more than a year-and-a-half, is one of those men. “For me, my beard is more than just a look — it’s a lifestyle,” David says. “This is what works for me. I don’t have problems finding dates and I don’t have problems knowing what to wear because I know this is what works for me.”
It’s the difference between facial hair being part of your look, instead of part of a look.
“Will I ever shave my beard? Probably,” David adds. “But that will be a choice for me when I am sick of it or want to try something new for myself, or it gets too gray.” Until then, David and the rest of the bearded guys will have to stock up on plenty of oils and shampoo to prepare for the sweaty, smelly-beard days of summer. Having a beard that causes your skin to breakout definitely isn’t cool or hip or trendy, but it’s worth it for those who find identity in the facial hair. But whether you are setting trends or just living your life, David sums it up: “Know who you are, own it, accept it, embrace it, and be it.”