the shaving trap

In Garrett’s beard feature, he reveals a fundamental mechanism for getting caught in the shaving trap. He and other high school students who are among the first to develop facial hair are frequently required to shave because of school dress codes. So they shave and the shaving habit easily becomes entrenched, almost automatically. What’s more is that these early shavers set an example for those who develop facial hair later. So they may be more inclined to follow the trend and conform, even if it’s after they are out of high school.

This illustrates how the practice of shaving facial hair gains an early foothold. Once established, it may remain resistant to change. If shaving requirements are lifted, many report to that they soon decide to grow beards to celebrate their new freedom. A common example of this is when a man leaves the military.

Beware of the shaving trap. You can break free of it — eventually, depending on your own circumstances — and grow your beard.

32 Responses to “the shaving trap”

  1. Stu Brydon Says:

    i find it rather sad that the valued ideal perception of a man, is to be beardless and that this is started as early as high school. Young men and women in high school are learning to become men and women and high schools should foster personal growth and learning, not repression of beards. They should be allowed to choose whether they want to be bearded or clean shaven and discover what works for them. Its tragic to see the shaving trap is started so early in the stages of beard growth, almost as if they don’t want beards and the possibility of beard growth to be discovered.

    I have had a full beard for quite awhile now and can’t imagine life without it, and am lucky enough to have an employer that allows men to have full beards. Indeed beware of the shaving trap, and if you are able to break free of it, grow your beard.

  2. Brandon Says:

    I was caught in the shaving trap for the 4 years that I was in high school. I had developed facial hair and started shaving at 12 or 13 and I was required to start shaving. I hated it. My dad had a fu man chu and before that he had a full beard and I didn’t understand why I couldn’t have a beard too. Now that I’m out of High School and I’ve been in college for a year, I’m growing my beard and experimenting with the different styles that I can wear around.

    I recently had a goatee that I’ve now trimmed down so I can have a full beard again. I’ve missed having…I’ve gotten so tired of shaving again.

    I agree, try not to get caught in the trap. If you do get caught, you can get out, but sometimes it takes a long long time.

    Thanks for the blog entry, Stu. ^_^

  3. Paul Shepard Says:


  4. Justin Says:

    I thank my lucky stars that I’ve never experienced the beard trap.
    Like many permanent dedicated beard growers, my beard is a part of me.
    Since I am a musician and spend a great deal of time working with creative people – who tend to be open minded and non judgemental – I feel sorry for those men who are denied the pleasure of being bearded because of constraints placed upon them by their employers.

    Perhaps we should boycot those organizations and companies which do not allow men to show their masculinity on their faces.

    I’ve refused to support Disney movies, products and resorts for years because of their ban on bearded employees.

    Does anyone else do this?

  5. Steve Says:


    Thanks for your comment. I don’t want to advocate boycotts on the site. I don’t know the official Disney policy, but I believe that the beard prohibition applies only to cast members and perhaps others at the theme parks and resorts. I’ve known guys from Walt Disney Imagineering to have full beards.

    The ban on beards for cast members is outdated and ought to be revised to allow neatly groomed beards. I’m pretty certain, however, that a boycott will not bring about such a change.

    The point about the shaving trap that I was trying to make is that it catches guys early…like in high school. By the time they enter the fulltime workforce, shaving typically has long been an entrenched habit.

  6. Nick Says:

    I went to boarding school from 9-12th grade, so I too had to shave every day. My father had a mustache and I realized that I wanted a beard. I have a goatee now and have several friends who have beards. Being in college it is easy to be lazy and not shave for one or two weeks. Me I will not shave until my beard is fully in. It is unique to have a beard because not everyone can grow one.

  7. Mark Says:

    As a fair haired man, it has been a struggle to encourage a thick beard growth, but I currently am very happy with my beard. My wife often complains for me to trim it down. I say “No Way”. My beard is part of me and my life. Have shaved it off a couple of times, but truly feel unfinished when I get dressed. I believe that I am given more respect due to my beard.

  8. George Says:

    As an adolescent, I only shaved until I had enough growth to constitute a decent moustache/goatee and have had a beard ever since.

    I’d be curious to know in what era some of the men who say their high schools banned facial hair were in high school – because mine in the early ’80s had no such rules, and in fact I graduated high school with a full beard. Of course, I grew up in a town of about 25,000 in western Oregon where beardedness is perhaps more common than in some other areas.

  9. Brandon Says:

    In response to George’s question about the time period of high school:

    I live in Texas where most public schools are going more toward the private school policies; such as shaving, cutting hair (for boys) and wearing uniforms. I graduated from my high school near Dallas, TX in May 2005 and I stopped shaving the day after graduation. The reason we were told that we could not have facial hair in the school was that they were getting us ready for “the real world” where people couldn’t get careers and hold “steady jobs” if they have beards or facial hair.

    Like I said in my first comment I shaved my beard down so I could have more of a Van-Dyke goatee (only reason I did this was to meet my future in-laws…only after I met them did I find out that my future father-in-law had a beard in his youth) and I missed my full beard so I stopped shaving and trimmed it down.

    My fiancee is from Pensylvannia and she said that at her high school, the male students could have beards. It boggled my mind because the there are hardly any schools down here in Texas where a male student can express themselves with their facial hair. Truly, it makes me a little angry. I just wish that beardedness was more acceptable in this part of the country.

  10. JOHN Says:

    Wow ! – Texas – The land of ZZ Top – Now there is some good lookin beards . I grew up in Ohio and I spent 3 years of High School in Naval ROTC . I was in the shaving trap for 3 long years – I hated it – The July after graduation – I grew a beard and never looked back . Hey , I have a weird question – Im 46 now and my beard is growing in thicker but my hair on my head is getting thinner – Why is that ?

  11. Maggie Says:

    Brandon, I know I told you my dad used to have a beard! Silly man.

    I still think it’s weird for public schools to dictate their students’ facial hair (or lack thereof). And the whole “preparing for the real world” angle is crap.

  12. Mike Says:

    Hey all,

    Mark, I couldn’t agree more about the whole respect thing. I have perceived a definite change in the way in which people treat me when I have a beard. If the truth be told, it doesn’t stop with increased respect from others, I view myself differently when I have a beard – I feel more confident and attractive within myself. After I shave the beard off, I feel baby-faced, adolescent and somewhat exposed (I have very good skin tone for my age, but looking younger than one is isn’t always a good thing!).

    B.t.w, I also have a blond beard (see the “importance of hanging in there” blog). I understand what it is like getting a blond beard going. I was always jealous of my blue-bearded mates, as I had to wait until my thirties to get over ‘the shaving trap’. The interesting thing is that I now get more comments than they do as mine has such an unusual colouring. Good on you for keeping it up, genetics can sometimes make for quite an interesting ride!

  13. Steve B Says:

    I had a beard and then knocked it off yesterday… man I think that might have been a mistake. I finally broke out of the pressure of shaving for a while, then decided I’d try going clean shaven for a while.. part of the motivation for that being that the young ladies around my age don’t take too well to bearded guys.
    After I knocked off the beard, I realized how much shaving just plain sucks, it’s near impossible to get a good clean shave, my face is always rough, and my neck gets severely irritated. I’m fortunate that in my line of work I can generally get away with having a full (but at least neatly trimmed) beard if I so choose. I’m gonna be hard pressed to find a good reason not to just grow it back immediately.

  14. Cole Says:

    I’ve worked in restaurants for a long time. The beard trap has got my face in its ugly cage. The policy states that I can have neatly trimmed facial hair. However, I had to have already had it before I started. Of course I shaved to look “presentable” for the interview, and now I feel trapped. I’ve been trying to think of a “legitimate” reason to grow it out at work, as if being a man isn’t good enough! I was thinking of telling them I was turning Amish or Muslim but I don’t think they’ll buy it. I should get into a new line of work I guess.

  15. Alex Says:

    I’ve been able to grow a beard for a few years now. I’m a senior in highschool and I’ve also been struggling with such an outrageous situation. My father (once the crazy hippie with long hair and a wild beard) is now a highschool teacher. He is anything, but what he claims he was. Often times I feel his stories are just amusing tales to manipulate my view of him. And boy has he! Every week I get the usual “Shave that sh*t off your face. How does that reflect on your parents? Its not right.”. As far as I know, the presence of hair has nothing to do with morals. Nor do people judge my parents accordingly. I truly hate speaking out about this. When I do, people just conclude its my rebellious age. I don’t think so.

    It’s hard to understand their possition. You see, I have two older brothers who lived their entire highschool experience accompanied with their trusty beard. Once I was given the oppertunity to further my education, everything changed. Perhaps they’re so close-minded to suspect they’ve failed with the other two- and now its time to fix everything with their final child. Perhaps I’ll be the perfect represenative son? I don’t mind if it works out that way. I just want to keep my beard.

  16. OHIO JOHN Says:

    Cole , I too dont think its fair that one should has to “shave ” to work in food service . Its not like bearded men are any dirtier than other clean shaven men . Unless a mans beard is more than 4 ft long and dragging into the product . I dont see a problem with it . What about the man that makes your pizza or any other carry-out ? – no one see them [ the public ] – Why would having a beard matter ? I think its just another trumped up health dept issue – My worry is other things that cooks put in the food – I think that is the bigger worry here – Not beards – Ohio John

  17. Chris Says:

    If you were Amish or Muslim your employer would find himself in trouble so why should you not have the same rights. grow your beard. If it is clean and tidy there should be no legit reason to complain

  18. joel Says:

    im in middle school and i im 14 i have no facial hair yet but everybody is being forced to shave that not right

  19. thamimun Says:

    i am 28 years old man, but my beard and mustache not grow,how i grow a beard and mustache,pls mail for some tips

  20. Kellen D Says:

    If myself have been caught in the “shaving trap” before, but at my high school if you so much as have peach fuzz, you are forced to sign a paper argeeing that you have violated the school’s dress code then, you must go into the bathroom with a plastic single blade razor and barbasol to shave, and just imagine the humiliation of walking back into class with your neck and face bleeding like hell. And if two of these violations are made you are assigned a D-hall, possibly a saturday class, and if you refuse to shave then you are sent to AC(Alternitive Center) to attend school for a temporary or even permenant amount of time. Now I’m only 16 and have had facial hair since seventh grade and, now in tenth grade, my beard grows twice as fast. I avoid shaving most of the time because of serious breakouts on my neck and face I recieve from shaving and plus I just love having a beard. The school says the shaving rule is for “secruity reasons”, thinking that if some students have facial hair, people will mistake them for teachers or perhaps that they are someone tresspassing on the school grounds. Both of these reasons can be proven as BS by the following, the teachers are required to ware ID tags with their picture and stating they are employed by the district, and even so the teachers and principles ,which by the way we have 6 countem’ 6 principles, should recongzine most of the students and trust me they know the kids with hair because they watch us constanly telling us to shave, and I’m fed up with this S!*#t.

  21. Steve (not Beardguy) Says:

    Kellen D,

    It sounds like you’re stuck under that system for a while longer. I’ve found electric shaving much better than wet shaving, whether to shave over my throat (nowadays) or more (at various times over the years). Also, my electric shavers have paid for themselves compared to the yearly cost of disposable blades and shaving cream.

    If you got an electric shaver, your skin would have a better time, making it easier for you to tolerate the system until you’re free from it. At the risk of alienating you and the other readers in similar situations, I’ll add that it might be good to count this experience as low-risk practice for coping with the irrationally petty systems some of us grown-ups also get stuck under from time to time until we can free ourselves.

  22. Steve (not Beardguy) Says:

    About beards and food service: I’ve seen bearded food-service workers wearing beard nets that loop around behind the ears.

    Some rules in the workplace are used to satisfy the need for the appearance of harmony. That basic, human need is not always bad. Nonetheless, an employer’s control can feel uncomfortable sometimes. Then, a man can choose to be content for a time for good reasons, or he can choose to take risks to move toward a likely better situation.

  23. Aldon Says:

    Two things:
    1. Beards in school and
    2. Beards in the food industry

    Kellen D, Are you in the USA? Your school sounds like it’s run by a group of Nazis.

    I was in Hi School in the late 60’s to early 70’s and I thought we had a strick dress code but they never made us shave peach fuzz in Jr Hi.

    My last year in Hi School they changed the “dress code” due to a law suit and “BANG” over night we had beards, long hair and hippie clothes.

    About beards in the work place:

    I worked in a hospital dietary department. Our manager asked for suggestions for revamping the department dress code.

    I suggested that people like myself that worked in the food “storeroom” where food was containerized should not have to wear beard-nets since there was no chance of exposing the food to facial hair.

    He agreed and the code was changed.

    I can see the need to “wear a net” when you are near open food because … who wants to find a hair of any origion in their food … especially finding it after you put it in your mouth.

    But, making you shave … unacceptable!!!

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  26. Sean Says:

    I guess I was pretty lucky. Despite the fact that I went to a private high school, in Grade 11 when my beard started to grow out, I was never told to shave it. This, coupled with my laziness, lead to the awesome beard I sport today.

    I had to shave it once or twice due to working in the food industry, but I’ve always grown it back. Partially because I don’t like shaving ( too much time and effort ), and partially because I think I look much better with my beard than without it.

  27. Pete Says:

    I have ugly facial hair. I would not grow a beard even if you paid me. Some guys can grow very neat and tidy looking stubble or beards, but for me it’s a no-go area. I get beard growth all the way down to my adams apple, so shaving in the morning is a long and irritating process which yields less than satisfying results – But it’s preferable to the ugly stubble that ensues after a 24 hour period. There are days I do not shave, however on those days I hate to be seen in public. It’s made me very self conscious. I live in a society where beards (or even stubble) are considered a sign of lazyness and/or being tired (people will point out how tired you look). Because of this, I will not step outside without a shave. Geez, I envy guys who have little to no facial hair. They’ve no idea of the ordeal required to shave lengthly, coarse beards.

  28. Wes Says:

    Actually, Pete, many guys have the same type of facial hair as you, and instead of shaving they let it grow out. If the shaving is such a bother, then let it be. Over time it will thicken up and fill in.

    You mention that you live in a society that looks down on beards. I feel sorry for you on that point. What society is that?

  29. hamid alali Says:

    hi i am a musim in dubai wishing to grow his beard but my school will not allow me what is the point of that in a musim country.

  30. Norbert Says:

    I have a little problems in my work too.Today’s fashion with those metrosexual people that like to mock my beard they said that is an old fashion and looks dirty.
    BUT a lot of ladies begin to like it and this is good.

  31. Dean Says:

    I have fallen into the shaving trap or perhaps a variant of it a mere two days ago. The reason for my shaving stems from a job interview I had approximately a year ago, I was seeing employment for the summer before my grad year and was rejected because I had 1) a beard 2) long hair 3) lip piercings. The rejections was based on aesthetics alone, seeing as it wouldn’t really affect my working – it wasn’t the type of job where hair could fall into food or anything. A year later, I have shaved, a mere few days ago, because I thought it would help me find employment and I really need money to pay for my apprenticeship. All of the other reasons typically revolved around the pressure of others (although, there were many, including the lady in my life, who liked my beard at that point.) Nearly immediately after, I regretted it nearly immediately after and felt completely emasculated, so one aspect of this post is urging those whom have beards, if they enjoy having it, to keep it. There are so may reasons to, but I am guessing if you’re here, then you already know several of them.
    Another aspect of this is asking for some helpful advice on re-growing my beard. At this point, I have incredibly long hair, so will my beard now look awkward when grown; possibly out of proportion or should this work out alright? Any encouraging words or tips for re-growing beards?
    However, the main lesson to be learned from this story is never shave off your beard unless there is a solid reason that isn’t based upon the pressures of others.

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