Don’t hold back.
I hear from far too many beard growers, especially new beard growers, that they are afraid of the cheek line of their full beards being too high. So they butcher their beards into unflattering shapes in their misguided attempts to make their beards look more “acceptable”. Some use the excuse that their beards grow all the way up to their eyes and that they will look like the much-feared “wolf man” should they leave the cheek line natural. They say that even when there are actually inches (or even more centimeters) between the natural upper cheek line of the beard and their eyes. The beard-growing-all-the-way-up-to-the-eyes fear is almost always an exaggeration and a misperception, likely based on shaky self-confidence with respect to the new full beard. In uncommon cases, the beard nearly does grow all the way up to the eyes. In such a case, the cheek line could be lowered without butchering the beard by not going too low. The main point here is not to jump to the conclusion that your beard nearly grows nearly all the way up to your eyes when the reality is that it does not.
Another common rationalization for butchering the beard’s cheek line is that it somehow makes the beard less objectionable to potential naysayers. Don’t fall into that trap. You’re growing a beard. Embrace that fact. People are going to see it. You are already stepping out from the norm by growing the beard. Why not grow your beard to its full potential, which is usually its best look? That’s a lot better than butchering it down to some unattractive and amateurish shape. Again, you’re growing a beard. Do it right! Don’t ruin the shape of it just because you fear that leaving the cheek line natural is just going too far. It almost never is.
Another common fear is that the natural cheek line does not look “professional”. The “professional look” is subject to interpretation. In general, however, it would likely mean maintaining a neat and tidy appearance by following good grooming habits and practicing good hygiene. A natural cheek line does not contradict good grooming and hygiene. There are countless full-bearded professionals who maintain natural cheek lines, yet project a completely professional appearance. Just keep your beard well-groomed along with everything else.
What if you’ve given the natural cheek line a truly fair chance and you just can’t stick with it? You feel that you really must give the cheek line some sort of “clean-up” or definition. Well, if you are convinced that you must, then just take off the minimum amount to smooth out the cheek line and give it a more defined look. This keeps your beard the closest to its natural shape while giving the cheek line a more precision look. In other words, you’ve created the best-defined cheek line possible without needlessly butchering the beard.
Fear of the cheek line breeds fear. Don’t spread it further. Butchered beards set bad examples. Great beards inspire.
Don’t be afraid of heights! Let your full beard’s cheek line go natural with confidence and pride. And if that’s just not for you, at least define your cheek line by taking the least amount possible away from the natural.
Many of the beard-growing mistakes that I see again and again may often be blamed on some extent to fear, anxiety, and a lack of confidence. Don’t fear the full beard when it’s yours. If you’re going to grow a full beard, go all in. Otherwise, why bother? You’re growing a full beard, for crying out loud. Show the world that you aren’t afraid to do it right.
For so many men, growing a beard is such a huge stretch out of their comfort zones that they are afraid to embrace the experience fully. They timidly grow out a full beard — and deserve commendation for that — but then stunt its growth or mutilate its shape out of some sort of fear that they’re going too far. For some, letting the beard grow in fully will surely make them look just like ZZ Top or Rip Van Winkle. We surely can’t have that now, can we? Except, of course, letting a beard grow out a little beyond the stubble stage is hardly the equivalent of a ZZ Top beard.
Some of the most common beard-growing mistakes for a full beard are:
These errors do not plague new beard growers exclusively. Plenty of veteran beard growers commit these mistakes all the time, too. Let’s take a look at each one.
What’s the fear? “If I don’t keep this cheek line down way low, I’ll look just like a wolf man.”
What’s the result? All too often, the result is a butchered beard that looks stifled and unnatural.
What to do? Look at it this way. Give your natural cheek line a fair chance. And don’t be afraid to do so. Some fear that their natural cheek line reaches all the way up to their eyes. Usually, this is an exaggerated perception. If your natural cheek line really is too high and you really do look exactly like a wolf man, then go ahead and lower the cheek line. But don’t go too far. If your natural cheek line is not truly that of a wolf man, but is a bit ragged and you’d prefer a neater line, go ahead and define a straighter cheek line. Just take off what’s needed to define a neater line. Don’t go too far!
What’s the fear? “I’d better define the neck line way up high, otherwise this beard would be too big. Besides, I’ve seen plenty of other guys with neck lines up high and they must know what they are doing.”
What’s the result? A neck line that’s too high makes a full beard look truncated, unnatural, unflattering, and even “clown-like”.
What to do? Think about this. The idea of growing a full beard is to grow the full beard. Why should the underside of the chin be clean shaven? Some even have defined the neck line to be above the jaw. That’s not a full beard. It’s a full beard with the bottom part missing. Don’t do this! Instead, follow the guidelines for designing a neck line for your full beard.
Not permitted to fully grow
What’s the fear? “My beard is already an eighth of an inch (3.175 mm) long. People will think that I’m ZZ Top! This has gone too far. I’d better trim it down.”
What’s the result? Fear of letting your beard fully grow out results in essentially a stubble beard, or maybe just slightly beyond the stubble stage. That is pretty much just an extended unshaven look. To see what your beard really looks like, let it keep growing. If you look with an objective eye, rather than having a knee-jerk reaction based on lack of confidence, you can tell when it’s approaching the length limit for what you consider to be acceptable for your situation. Even then, you might be safe in going longer. The point is that too many are growing about an eighth of an inch (3.175 mm) and thinking that they’ve grown a real beard. Well, keep growing and you’ll eventually see what a real beard can be.
What if I really want a low cheek line, high neck line, stubble beard?
If that’s what you really want, go for it. Just make sure that it is what you really want and it’s not your fears calling the shots.
I am afraid that a fully-grown real beard with proper cheek and neck lines is too extreme and would not look professional.
A properly cultivated and well-groomed beard can always give a professional look. It can even enhance one’s professional appearance. Just do it right. Be prepared for uninformed comments. That is, be prepared to brush them aside. People feel compelled to comment and usually just say something without thinking. Don’t worry about that. Keep growing. Grow a proper full beard. Don’t give into your fears and grow a butchered, stunted beard. Which one looks better and more professional? You decide.
The second video in this series is now up on YouTube. This one features footage of Christopher, shot during his latest beards.org photo shoot. Scott still serves as an official spokesperson for beards.org in this video. Check it out:
All too often I hear of guys who start growing a beard, get well on their way, and then suddenly get cold feet and shave it off in a moment of insecurity. Many report that they’ve gone through this routine multiple times. Why?
To avoid this unfortunate fate for the budding new beard, simply commit to sticking with the beard-growing process. Set a target date that gives your new beard growth a decent chance to grow in and for you to become accustomed to it. And make a commitment not to shave it under any circumstance (barring some extreme unexpected situation) before that date.
You have to WANT the beard. You have to want it enough to commit to growing it properly. Otherwise, you may be vulnerable to a temporary loss of confidence, then chicken out and shave it off. Don’t let it happen again!
Check out this great essay on beards written by a new friend of the site:
It’s well worth reading!