The Gentleman Lawyer’s Guide to Facial Hair

lawyers-guide-to-facial-hair

Throughout history the beard has served as a sign of royalty, virility, and badassness in various cultures. A shorn beard used to be a sign of shame. Even today, many would argue that a proper beard makes a man more intimidating to his enemies. And since lawyering is about 90% mental, you should all listen up.

Unfortunately, since the time of Alexander the Great, beards have come and gone from the mainstream. He banned them because he believed they were a liability in battle. Today, some argue that facial hair is unprofessional, while others believe that there is simply a favorable bias to clean-shaven men. In fact, some employers even have policies forbidding or limiting facial hair.

I can agree that some facial hair does not belong in the courtroom.

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But you should not let the one percent of inappropriate facial hair growers dissuade you. Nor should you bow to the naysayers. The idea that all facial hair is unprofessional or not appropriate for attorneys is ridiculous.

Facial hair can provide many benefits to a lawyer’s image. A consistent look will make you easy to find and describe. It’s hard to miss the guy with the Gandalf-esque beard. It can provide part of your image, as the Fishtown Lawyers illustrate with their home page. For younger attorneys, facial hair can make one seem older. But that is a double-edged sword. It can also make one look like he is trying to look older.

Considerations When Growing Facial Hair

Let’s assume I have convinced you that beards and facial hair are generally awesome. Before you embark on a facial hair journey, there are several things to consider. First, when will you start to grow or change your current facial hair? How long will it take? Can you definitely grow the facial hair you want? Will maintenance be difficult or time-consuming?

Timing

If your face is as smooth as a marble statute, a Monday morning may not be the best time to start growing your facial hair. It will give you the “I didn’t shave this morning” look for at least a day or two. And, unless you’re devilishly handsome, you may have trouble pulling off the five o’clock shadow without looking lazy or unkempt. Steve Wilson of beards.org disagrees with me. He thinks you should decide to go for the beard and just do it.

But in my opinion, you should give yourself some time or an excuse to grow your facial hair. A long weekend, a holiday, the NHL playoffs, or Movember are all great times to adjust your shaving habits.

Genetics

Let’s face it: some men cannot grow a proper beard. Some can grow a beard but not a mustache. Others cannot connect their mustache to a goatee. And that’s OK. We’re all unique snowflakes when it comes to facial hair. Others can grow a full beard, but the hair is so light it looks like peach fuzz. We are not here to insult your masculinity or judge your legal skills because of it. But you need to know your limitations.

To undertake a facial hair experiment without knowing your limitations is akin to taking on a client with no knowledge of the substantive law involved. It’s a bad idea. Know your limits and respect them.

The Morning Routine

Some men believe that if they have a beard or other facial hair, it will make their morning easier. After all, if you don’t have to shave your whole face every day, won’t it save you minutes each morning? Not exactly. With great facial hair comes great responsibility. Shaving around a beard, mustache, or goatee can take more precision and thought than just doing a clean shave. You need to be focused to make sure everything turns out OK. Otherwise you could end up shaving too much of your facial hair and having to start from scratch (which I have definitely done before).

The Options

Facial hair can be as varied as the men who sport it. But some looks are more amazing than others.

The Beard

There are only two acceptable ways to wear a beard at work. Either the beard covers your entire face, or it extends down onto your neck. If the hair is only on your neck, that is a neck beard and only appropriate for comic conventions. If the hair only goes along the side of your face and your chin, you’ve got a chin strap. Unless you’re seventeen or a biker, the chin strap is wholly inappropriate.

That being said, the beard can come in various lengths, ranging from short to dwarf-like. The longer the beard gets, the more difficult it can be to maintain a “professional” appearance. But a long beard is not necessarily a bad thing. Compare these short and long beards below:

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Depending on the type of beard you decide on, maintenance can be very easy or somewhat time consuming. The longer beard, for example, may need to be hand trimmed with scissors. But a full beard can usually be managed with a set of clippers and minimal razor shaving.

The Mustache

Like the beard, the mustache can come in many variations. But unlike the beard, fewer variations are as widely accepted. Fancy variations like the Fu Manchu mustache, the handlebar mustache, or the Charlie Chaplan are much more difficult to wear, and require a very specific persona.

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Eliminating those mustache possibilities still leaves the intrepid whisker-bearer with several options. A classic choice is the full, thick mustache often associated with Tom Selleck and 1970s porn stars:

Tom Selleck - star of "Blue Bloods" - at CBS TV Summer Press via SHUTTERSTOCK

But beware. That option could easily entail genetic setbacks if your mustache does not grow in thick enough.

A subtly different example of a full mustache comes from Burt Reynolds. Notice that Reynolds’ mustache is pointed at the ends, where Selleck’s is not:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/alan-light/211271504/

As you explore thinner mustaches, there are more options for shapes. But with a thin mustache there is also a risk of that creepy look, so beware. To get your creative juices flowing, Wikipedia can provide some great examples:

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The Goatee

More than the other styles, the goatee is often dictated by how your hair grows and where it grows. If you cannot connect chin hair to your mustache, you may want to avoid the goatee altogether. If you can only grow a thin mustache, a thin goatee is probably your only option.

The goatee in general provides a nice look without the need for a full beard. It also usually looks better as it grows in, as opposed to just a solitary mustache. You can also have a little more fun with styling a goatee. Like Tony Stark. But you can keep it simple and it will still look good, like Tyrion Lannister.

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You can easily manipulate the goatee. It’s a fun option because you get to combine the fun aspects of a mustache and a beard into one.

Go Forth with Confidence

The most important part of facial hair is how you wear it. And there is only one way to wear it: with confidence. Your facial hair will become a part of you. A part of your image. An extension of your face. Choose your style well, and enjoy the superiority you will feel over all your competition.

Updates

  • 2013-11-05. Originally published.
  • 2015-01-09. Revised and republished.

Featured image: “Set of men’s hair and facial hair graphic designs” from Shutterstock.

More from Issue #2

  • http://samglover.net/ Sam Glover

    I’m totally doing this in the spring:

    • http://bitterlawyer.com/ Josh Camson

      I would say on par with my current Tony Stark goatee.

      • Elapi

        You may need that sword on your hip, D’artagnan.

  • SpellCheck Police

    *you’re* devilishly handsome

    • http://samglover.net/ Sam Glover

      Thanks! Clearly, my copyediting skills could use work.

  • Eric Cooperstein

    Quote of the Day: “With great facial hair comes great responsibility.”

  • Taylor

    “There are only two acceptable ways to wear a beard at work. Either the beard covers your entire face, or it extends down onto your neck.”

    This sentence makes absolutely no sense to me. Please clarify.

    • Mark

      I agree? What does that mean???

      • http://bitterlawyer.com/ Josh Camson

        I think the next sentences put it into context:

        If the hair is only on your neck, that is a neck beard and only appropriate for comic conventions. If the hair only goes along the side of your face and your chin, you’ve got a chin strap. Unless you’re seventeen or a biker, the chin strap is wholly inappropriate.

  • Mark

    As a man, I agree that a man needs to know his limits when sporting facial hair. Not all men have good facial hair. Just because you’re an actor does mean you get an auto pass for whatever you grow on your face.
    In the professional world, hair on the neck looks bad. I say let the neck grow out when the facial hair starts growing past the neck.
    Only a limited amount of men can even grow a good looking full beard and be able to pull it off in the professional world.
    I am liking the fact facial hair is being more and more accepted in the professional world. When I was in my 20s and 30s facial hair was not in at all and the morning objective was a face, smooth a glass.
    I am in my 50s now and I am kind of jealous of the younger men who are allowed to grow a nice beard in the professional world. My generation is still stuck in the old world. Last year I grew a 7 month beard. Honestly keeping it nicely maintained was as much work as shaving every morning. At 5 months I was getting heat from my wife and friends that I was looking like a Iranian terrorist. I am very dark complected and my hair is still very dark in color. I am self employed and I wanted to give it a try once in my life to have a full mans beard. The pressure of my surroundings finally gave me into going back to my very short circle beard. I am glad I did it and love the fact that as a man I can change things up with manly facial hair.
    For the younger generation who want to grow a beard, I say do it!!! There are plenty of men on YouTube that will support you through the process. BELIEVE ME you will have plenty of naysayers to strip you of your confidence during the journey. Also, my best advice is do it before you are married. My experience is most women do not like a face full of hair. Look at it as a bonus. If you find the love of your life with a beard, then you have found true love!