From the moment he learns to shave a man starts imagining the possibilities facial hair offers.
WHAT: The full facial experience, there are so many variations on the beard, it hurts the head. There’s the Bushranger (never trim), Honest Abe (sideburns that go right under the chin), the Verdi (bushy but neat with slightly shaved cheeks), the Puritan (an Honest Abe that extends north to just under the body lip) and so on.
WHEN: Every man should attempt a beard at least once, but preferably not while the world can watch it grow millimetre by millimetre. Start a beard when you take a long holiday, get retrenched, suffer a breakdown or are planning a protest demonstration in a couple of months.
WHO: Hipsters, greenies, civil liberties tamers, primary school teachers, sailors, Vikings, big gay guys, sandal-wearers, uncles, truckles, students whose facial hair has graduated from burn-fluff.
WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT YOU: “Damn, I am a hairy mountain of masculinity. Look, watch me rip apart this guinea fond with my index fingers!”
WHAT: A beard that restricts itself to the mouth and chin. A moustache is preferable, but optional. The goatee can be long or short and has sub-styles like the Van Dyck, the Imperial strip, the Chin Beard, and the Anchor.
WHEN: Goatees have been ill-advised for the past decade, which indicates they are ripe for a comeback. Go for an Anchor, it’s pointy.
WHO: Psychiatrists, psychologists, psychopaths, scientists, sci-fi conventioneers, heavy metal guitarists, Johnny Depp and most guys from the ‘90s.
WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT YOU: “Not only am I hirsute, but I think. Lots.”
WHAT: The furry grub under the chin has its origins in the French military, as an adornment for officers when they made rank. It was called the “Royale”. Why the flavour-saver was adopted by beatniks in the ’50s and Luke Perry in the ’90s is anyone’s guess.
WHEN: When you are cast in a film version of On the Road or never.
WHO: The soul patch, like the goatee, is in a period of decline. Gents with lives they find embarrassingly boring to talk about with other people grow them in the vain hope it makes them more interesting.
WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT YOU: “Please like me. I’m fun, really I am.”
WHAT: Since the mid-1980s, the ‘stache has been the ugly sister at the facial hair ball, but has enjoyed a recent resurgence by the more hilariously minded. And there’s so many different possibilities. The Natural, the Chaplin, the Dali, I-Am-The Walrus, the Fu-Manchu, the Handlebar, the Aristocrat (twisted with wax), the Pencil and the Freestyle, which denotes any moustache not readily characterised.
WHEN: Ordinarily, a roan should only grow a moustache for charity (like Movember in November) or for a part in an amateur musical. However, the time has come: grow mo’.
WHO: Construction workers, big gay guys, private eyes based In Hawaii, SBS newsreaders, bikies, surrealist painters, inner-city types with secret porn collections, Ned Flanders.
WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT YOU: “I mo’ because I can. Baby”
WHAT: Either a sign of “Could not be arsed” or a cultivated and perfectly delineated cheek-grazing shadow as popularised by the album artwork for George Michael’s “Faith”. If it’s the former: pick up your game. If it’s the latter: beware of careless whispers. The vital ingredient for convincing stubble is even coverage. If your beard is as “patchy as a mangy dog”, forget it.
WHEN: Before a big game, from Friday til Monday, when recreating pop hits from the 1980s.
WHO: Rugged outdoorsmen, big gay guys, artists, rockers, advertising creatives, prop forwards, pornographers.
WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT YOU: “I cannot control the manliness…and my skin is very sensitive.”
WHAT: It is a given. No matter how you fare when jumping on the face hair funwagon, you will invariably have to come back to default position. There’s at least one day in every man’s life when he must be smooth and sorted. A sleek mug has many advantages, not the least of which is the lack of chicken bone “presents” often found in beards.
WHEN: Gettin’ hitched (or buried), meetings with mothers-in-law, bosses, clients, lawyers and… in fact, any sort of meeting. Also, when running for office, swimming the 100m and generally trying to appear like a normal human male. Serious people, modernists, poultry fanciers, financiers, lawyers, painters and, hopefully, mothers-in-law.
WHAT IT SAYS ABOUT YOU: “I’m the sort of person who cares about my appearance. I realise that fooling about with facial hair is something you stop doing when you turn 30. Please pass my Braun, darling.”