March 24, 2009

Moustache March: Rules to Fancy Facial Hair

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It’s spring (purportedly) and there’s growth sprouting all around — and I don’t just mean on the Arts Quad, I mean on the faces of men, young and old, on campus and all around the world. Many news and celebrity outlets have been commenting on the resurgence of facial hair, especially among younger populations. Celebrities like Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, Johnny Depp and Jake Gyllenhaal (the list goes on and on) are sporting various types of facial hair, and they are growing it on your average Joe -Plumber, -Hipster, and everything in between.
So, why now? Some are crediting the economic downturn (but that’s just an easy thing to blame stuff on) for the nation’s scruffiness, but a more credible reason is a reaction to metrosexual trends. The movie Milk, which featured dazzling mustaches on the lips of many actors, including probably the most inspiring one on a beautiful James Franco, has also been credited with sparking this season’s re-growth. In talking to and observing several of my facial-haired guy friends, it seems like a lot of times the impetus for growing facial hair is something we college students are very familiar with: sheer laziness. It starts out as stubble, and then it looks good, and it goes from there.
On one hand, a fashion column might tell you things you should and should not do concerning this trend, but on the other hand, who the hell cares? Let me clarify that: there are definitely choices to be made, some of which will make you look awesome or at least purposeful, others of which will make you look down right foolish, sleazy or overall unsuccessful in your attempt at whatever it is you’re attempting. And remember that in fashion, irony is key. Facial hair is one of only a few ways that men can express their style, and can do a lot of the same things that make up and hairstyles do for women, namely highlighting bone structure, camouflaging complexion and other flaws.
I had to do a great deal of research to bring you this information, so I hope you enjoy it, and I’m sorry if it’s a bit dry. So, basically there are three components of facial hair: sideburns, mustache and beard. Even if you choose to be otherwise clean shaven, you can still play with sideburn length. Longer sideburns can balance a long chin and shorter sideburns can balance a short or weak chin. And then there are mutton chops, side burns grown out onto the cheeks: they’re wide and can often be bushy. Think 1800’s portraiture. My most favorite style discovered is the “friendly mutton chop,” which is mutton chops that join together with a full mustache, leaving the chin bare. Oh, how I wish I could show you the illustrations I saw — just look it up online.
In choosing your mustache style, you should take into account the size and length of your upper lip, nose, shape of the face and area above the upper lip. Plan accordingly, using the guidelines I always tell you to: balance and a mirror. With beards, your choices are length and shaping: triangular and diamond shaped faces with narrow jaws or small chins are good candidates for fuller beards, while a thinner, ‘chin strap’ style works well for square jaws.
Of course, you want to consider where you grow hair the best, and work from there — if you can’t grow hair on your cheeks, you could try for a goatee, if you have an impotent mustache (don’t worry, it’s quite common,) try for a beard. The recommendation in styling your facial hair is to grow everything out for about four weeks, then you can shape your neckline, cheek line and mustache/goatee lines. Use a razor or electric beard trimmer on its lowest setting. After you have defined its boundaries, use sharp scissors and a fine-tooth comb to trim your whiskers to their desired length. Don’t over trim, because you can always trim more but you can never trim less. Actual trimming of your beard or mustache should be done while the hair is dry. This is because wet hair will tend to be longer, and as such you risk trimming too much when your hair is wet. Shaving can be done wet, or with an electric shaver. To make sure you keep a good balance between the two sides of your face, maintain a systematic approach.
Whatever your final style, your facial hair needs care like every other part of your body. Facial hair needs to be washed, just like head hair, and shampoo is suggested over bar soap which can dry your hair and skin out, although facial soap that is moisturizing is recommended. Certain styles may be more prone to collecting food than others, so you’ll have to get used to checking for crumbs.
What about beard burn? I don’t mean for the facial hair wearer, I mean for the person who comes in contact with it; dermatologists attest that canoodling with a burgeoning or full-on beard often causes chafing, eczema, and acne. The solution? It’s part of recommended facial hair care anyway: moisturizing and grooming.
We have reached the end of my collected wisdom for this subject, but basically, have fun, explore and style — invest in some mustache wax and you can be a ‘stachinista too! And who cares what people think? As a friend of mine who’s currently sporting a fu mancu/porn star stache mix said, pointing to his hirsute whiskers, “I respect people who respect this.”