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.
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?
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.
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).
Facial hair can be as varied as the men who sport it. But some looks are more amazing than others.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
- 2013-11-05. Originally published.
- 2015-01-09. Revised and republished.
- 2016-11-04. Republished
Featured image: “Set of men’s hair and facial hair graphic designs” from Shutterstock.
Read the next post in this series: "How to Properly Care for Your Shirts, Ties, and Suits."