Expert Q+A

How can I tell which facial hair styles will look good on me?

ANSWER:

When it comes to figuring out your ideal facial hair style, keep in mind you’ve got choices. But there are some general guidelines that can help you find the best style for you once you figure out the shape of your face.

If you’re not sure of your face shape, push your hair back and trace your face on the bathroom mirror using a dry bar of soap. It’s easier to discern when looking at the outline rather than your face itself.

Following are your basic face shapes and the hair styles that typically look best on them. Unless you work at the most conservative of offices, these looks will work at your average 9 to 5 if you follow the most important rule: Keep it well-maintained; this way, no one will think you just forgot to shave.

Facial Hair Styles for Square Faces
You’ll want to create the impression of a more slender, less boxlike shape, and a goatee or a circular beard will help. Remember, it has to be complementary to your hairstyle as well. This means that if you’re wearing your hair close-cropped, you’ll benefit from a grooming that carves in close around the neck and chin -- like David Beckham, who’s been known to wear a couple of days’ growth on the face but still presents a polished look.

Facial Hair Styles for Oval Faces
Bit of an egghead? Fear not, you’ve got more options than anyone else. This face, for instance, can sport a circular beard connected around the mouth -- a look that adds length to your face (since there’s no facial hair on the sides to broaden the beard). But you could also wear a goatee, giving that oval head some pizzazz.

Facial Hair Styles for Round Faces
Guys with round faces can appear heavier than they actually are. To remedy this problem, consider a goatee -- not to be confused with a circle beard (see “Oval” face above), the difference being that the goatee isn’t connected around the mouth. The benefit here is that it adds length and width, breaking up the lines of the face and balancing it.

Facial Hair Styles for Long Faces

If you’re long-faced, you need to avoid the goatee -- it will make your face look even longer. But there are still other options. The long-faced look great with sideburns. If your hair is tight on the sides, you could wear long sideburns, past the bottom of the ear. Just groom them close, and you’ll get an edgy -- but still clean -- look.

Bonus: Face shape isn’t the only factor that will help you gauge the right facial hair style. To wit:

  • Facial Hair Styles for Balding Guys
    If you have a short or shaved cut, consider a mustache or goatee, as it sets it off and adds a bit of contrast: Since you’re clean on top, these looks will give your head a bit more character.
  • Facial Hair Styles for Fair-haired Guys
    People with lighter hair have a harder time pulling off fuller facial hair styles because when the hair grows in, it can often appear wispy and give an appearance of patchiness. If you’re a fair-haired guy who is adamant about growing facial hair, stick with a 5 o’clock shadow: This prevents the hair from getting spotty or sparse.

About the Expert

Danny Kerr

Danny Kerr is a managing partner of Spiff for Men, a full-service grooming salon for men in New York City.

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