Sunday, 10 May 2015

The Modern Man's Guide to Beards

Whether you're sprouting a Galifianakis or a just a little stubble, here's everything you need to know to keep your face in check

For years, the clean-cut man-boy was ruling the runway. Parted hair, waifish waist, skin smooth as a Botoxed three-year-old. Then a gritty crew rolled in and changed the game. With it, the beard invasion began. Whether we're talking about a thick, irreverent Galifianakis or a jawline-amping mown lawn, a beard is just about the most on-trend accessory you can pull on this season. And while they look great on a beanie-and-cardigan-wearing gang like Fleet Foxes, they're not just for dudes who dress down. "When a guy wears one with a suit, it's just like, whoais that sexy," GQ fashion director Madeleine Weeks explains. "They give you this handsome, don't-mess-with-me appeal. Just look at Jeff Bridges, Paul Newman, and Cat Stevens (pictured above). All icons who wore them well." The key is not overanalyzing it. Nothing too manicured or manscaped. Nothing too wild and overgrown. You want to look like you've let go. A little, at least.

"Beards show that you're the independent type and possibly self-employed, seeing as how facial hair is frowned upon in certain uptight conformist corporations: the New York Yankees, for example. Consider Ben Roethlisberger (see above). He made the mistake that many beard wearers commit: He shaved his neck almost up to the chin. Men think this always sharpens the outline of their face and even makes them look thinner. Wrong! This is the worst thing a guy with the slightest weight issue can do. The shaved neck makes you look like you have a double chin."

Chances are you're going to need a little sculpting here and there. A little on the cheeks, a little on the neck depending on the kind of look you're going for. Ideally, you'd leave that all to a pro. A hot shave once a week isn't realistic for most of us, though. Beard-sensei Nick Wendel from The Blind Barber—esteemed NYC barbershop/speakeasy hybrid—lays down some ground rules for taking matters into your own hands.

Do: "If you want to sculpt super-close, there's no alternative to a straight razor. Buy one from The Art of Shaving and they'll tell you everything you could possibly need to know to avoid a Sweeney Todd situation. A number of regular razors come with a single blade on the back for sculpting,"
Don't: "It seems like a no-brainer, but so many guys treat shaving like a race and end up with nicks. Take the few extra seconds to add water to your shaving cream for an extra-smooth shave, and always go with the grain."
Do: "Use a hot towel to open the pores before you sculpt and a cold towel—or a cold rinse—to close your pores after. This keeps ingrown hairs, redness, and nicks in check.
Don't: "Never squeeze ingrown hairs like they're pimples. Dirt in your nails can lead to infection."
Do: "When you have an ingrown hair, put a hot towel on your face, disinfect the spot with some alcohol, take a tweezer, and go at it. Grab the hair as close to the base as possible to pull the bulb out. If you yank it from the top, you'll just split the hair in half, and then you're screwed."
Yes, you can use your beard trimmer to get a perfect fade. Dzenad "Geno" Bicic of Geno's Barberia, in New York's West Village, breaks it down
 Step one: Buzz it
"Set guard to 3 and buzz your whole beard."
 Step two: Clean lower neck
"Switch guard to 1 and buzz from your Adam's apple to two inches below your jaw."
 Step three: Fade it
"Switch guard to 2 and buzz that remaining two-inch area, finessing and fading the 1 zone into the 3 zone."
 Step four: Remove strays
"Remove guard (the 0 setting) and buzz below your Adam's apple and any strays on the sides of your neck."
In the market for a solid, no-mess trimmer? The built-in vacuum in this Norelco ( swallows clipped hairs before they fly all over your bathroom floor. One quirk: This guard operates in millimeters rather than traditional barbershop guard numbers. (Start at 9mm for No. 3.)

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