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December 04, 2016

To be(ard) or not to be(ard)

Text by Aparrna Gupta

We trace the growing popularity of beards and give you the five coolest styles to sport

You know nothing if you haven’t heard of the Jon Snow beard. Salons, world over, have witnessed a surge of clients walking in with photographs of Kit Harington, aka Jon Snow in the popular television series Game of Thrones. At one point, when the actor decided to shave off his signature beard, it left a trail of weeping tweeters. One summed up the travesty simply with: ‘Kit Harington without a beard looks like pizza without cheese.’

Throw a glance around yourself, whether you are at work or at a bar, you will not take more than 10 seconds to spot a guy with a moustache or some stubble. From a caveman’s laidback look to a symbol of urban cool, beards have come a long way indeed.

It’s a fallacy that vanity is only a woman’s prerogative. Men are equally particular about their external appearances, if not more. “We have clients walking in with photo-references of Shahid Kapoor, Ranveer Singh and characters from Game of Thrones saved on their phones. We have a tough time convincing them that not every style complements every face. A beard is meant to frame a face. For instance, those with round faces can’t rock the no-fuss mountain-man mien or the stubble as that will make them look rounder. If they go for Dhe-tease or Wolf, that are angular options, the face appears chiselled,” explains Jaykishan Anant Pawar, master barber and assistant manager (training), Truefitt & Hill.

Once upon a time beards were worn by only those in the creative field and shunned by those who held white-collared jobs in the corporate sector. The perception has changed. No longer are you considered unkempt. But, sporting a stubble doesn’t mean that you can do away with shaving for weeks, rather it entails regular visits to the salon. “New-age versions are sharp and crispy, and are high maintenance. A snip gone a centimetre awry can break the look. The first time a client walks into our salon, we advise him to grow a beard for a week and return to us. Once we know the growth pattern, we suggest a style. We recommend that our clients shampoo and condition their facial hair every alternate day and use beard oil or balm depending on their skin type,” adds Pawar.

“It’s also important to remember that just like the hair on your head, your beard also needs utmost care, and that the right products make all the difference,” state founders Ashutosh Valani and Priyank Shah, of men’s grooming brand Beardo. Products such as beard oils and moustache wax work on the rough and unruly hair — encouraging even reluctant men to jump on the bandwagon.

Studies have shown that there is an optimum length at which facial hair is perceived as most attractive. It’s been termed ‘heavy stubble’ — the midpoint between a clean shave and actual beardedness. How you style your facial hair makes a statement about your personality. “Beards were once looked upon as a sign of honour and were only cut as a punishment, and both men and women agree that they make men seem more mature, distinguished, and even powerful,” says Nikhil Sharma, art director at Toni&Guy North India. It is plain that the beard is still going strong, and it won’t be going anywhere for a long time.

Face Off

The ‘Untidy’ Shave: Comprising a moustache and closely trimmed stubble, this look is the right balance of manly attitude and casual elegance. If you’re one of those people who love it but aren’t too kicked about the maintenance part, this one is right up your alley. Worn by celebrities and athletes alike, the ‘messy’ shave is the in thing right now.

The ‘Toned Down’ Grizzly: For those with a fuller growth the ‘toned-down’ grizzly works, as it lets you sport a full beard, but is easier to maintain.

The Van Dyke: Made popular by style icon David Beckham, the Van Dyke is seeing a revival. This one is sure to catch the ladies’ fancy and incite the envy of their male companions. Best of both worlds, the Van Dyke is a mix of the thick moustache, the soul patch and the well-manicured beard. Highly recommended…but be warned, it’s equally high on maintenance.

The Chin Triangle: A definite improvement on the soul patch (which, if you ask me, quite frankly suits only struggling musicians), the chin triangle has been popularised by stars like Channing Tatum. It draws attention to the small area it covers and mandates a tight, clean shave of the rest of the face. You may also pair it with a pencil moustache, if you’re feeling particularly avant-garde.

The Classic French Beard: Often times called the ‘corporate rebel’, this favourite is seeing a revival of sorts with celebrities like Brad Pitt and George Clooney seen sporting it at the Cannes Film Festival in May earlier this year. Low on maintenance, it also suits almost every face cut.

-Inputs by Ashutosh Valani and Priyank Shah, Founders, Beardo

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