Some men suit a beard, looking noble and wise and distinguished. Others just look a bit odd, a bit disjointed, as if they’re wearing someone else’s beard. Which might just be the problem, because hardly anyone ever takes the trouble to work out what sort of beard would suit them best.
I’m the same. I looked at young, bright things with their full-on Hoxton Hipster beards and shot for the moon.
The trouble is I’m not young and I’m not especially bright. I’m jaded on a good day, cynical on a bad one, and proud of my developing status of grumpy old man.
I’m grizzled, not groomed, and a little bit rough around the edges so a full, slightly wild beard just made me look like someone who sleeps rough out of necessity rather than choice.
But I don’t want to have to shave every day and I am too lazy to keep on top of the maintenance required for designer stubble so I eventually settled on a shortish beard that I trim once a week, touching up the edges with a razor every few days.
Best of all, my wife likes it.
This was a long and painful journey that might have been easier if I’d taken the trouble to work out what suited me in advance.
Decide what shape face you have
The experts claim there are six different face shapes:
• Square – a square face will be as broad as it is tall, with a well-defined, straight jawline.
• Rectangle – this face shape is similar to the square, but it is longer than it is wide.
• Round – a round face looks a bit like the square face but with a gentler curve to the jawline and more prominent, rounded cheekbones.
• Heart – a heart-shaped face is like the round one but with a slightly wider forehead than chin.
• Pear – like the heart but upside down with a wider jaw than forehead.
• Diamond – similar to the heart but with a narrower forehead. If you have very pronounced cheekbones and a narrow chin and forehead then you have a diamond-shaped face.
You’re still confused, aren’t you?
The scientific method
As men we like order, predictability and clear-cut answers, so if you, like me, find the above guide a bit woolly and subjective here is an (almost) foolproof way to calculate what shape face you have.
Simply measure the following parts of your face (a soft sewing tape measure might work better than the metal Stanley retractable you have in your toolbox…) and note them down.
• Length – measure from your hairline to the tip of your chin.
• Width – measure the widest point of your face, wherever that may be.
Now look in the mirror.
• Is your jawline rounded or straight? Is your jaw the widest part of your face?
• Is your forehead the widest part of your face?
• Do you have prominent cheekbones? Are they the widest part of your face?
If you are still confused, just take some measurements from a photograph in which your head is facing straight ahead. All we’re looking for is a comparative measurement, so it doesn’t have to be to scale.
With this information you can work out what shape face you have.
If you’re still confused, just ask your partner. I can pretty much guarantee they will have an opinion.
More male hair problems fixed
Decide on your beard
Armed with this information, you can now work out what shape beard will suit you best.
• Square – a square face will benefit from having your beard trimmed short on the sides while letting it grow a bit longer on the chin. You could even shave the hair on your cheeks down to the jawline leaving a thin strip linking the sideburns to the goatee, which will add some length to way your face looks. You also need to think about whether you want to emphasise your angular face, or soften it: clean, straight edges will exaggerate the square shape while rounded, curved edges will soften it.
• Rectangle – the aim here is to minimise the length of your face, so you need to keep the length of the hair on your chin to a minimum. A close-cropped beard would look good, or even stubble. You might also like to let the hair on your cheeks grow a bit fuller to add the illusion of width. Of course, if you like the shape then hard edges to your beard can be used to accentuate your rangy look.
• Round – if you keep the sides of your beard fairly short but grow the portion below your chin this will serve to make your face look a bit longer and less rounded. If you want to further minimise the round shape then you could grow your beard into a bit of a point at the chin, turning your face into more of a heart shape.
• Heart – a heart-shaped face has a narrow chin, so growing your beard fuller in length will add width there, especially if you trim it in a straight line, so it is cropped a bit closer at the point of the chin than it is on either side. The full-Hipster looks good here, so feel free to let it get a bit wild and shaggy!
• Pear – a pear-shaped face needs some width up top to square things off so big sideburns work well with a closely trimmed beard. You can also trim the beard quite high under the chin to avoid adding weight to your neck. Alternatively, you can embrace your look and go for the full Brian Blessed.
• Diamond – people probably love your cheekbones, so keep your beard short on the cheeks and face, growing it a bit longer at the chin. Cropping it straight, just like the heart-shaped face, will add some width at the chin, giving you a fine, manly jaw. Again, you could probably pull off the Cast Away look without people surreptitiously slipping you a few coins to buy a cup of tea.
Read more of Carlton's advice on growing and taming a beard
If you still can’t nail your look, simply let your beard grow unfettled for a few weeks. When you start to get sympathetic looks from people you haven’t seen for a while, book an appointment with a barber or hairdresser that offers a beard-styling service and let them do what they do best.
Once you’ve had your beard professionally styled it’ll be easy to keep it trimmed to that shape in the future.