Men's Life Today: Shaving
Beard Style Guide for African-American Men
By Craig the Barber
Beards in the African-American community have always been popular. Of course we can all think back to iconic figures from the ’60s -- Marvin Gaye, Teddy Pendergrass, Shaft -- who brought them into popular mainstream culture. However, I think the real reason for the enduring popularity of beards stems from the desire to hide (and avoid) the effects of shaving irritation. The end result of having to deal with these shaving challenges has been an amazing evolution of facial-hair styling. Today, we see many major figures sporting variations of these original styles. The goatee, the chin strap, the full beard and the scruffy beard have all experienced tweaks in order to make them relevant in 2012. These updated styles can definitely enhance your look, but be careful: They can have the opposite effect if worn incorrectly.
THE SCRUFFY BEARD
Beard scruff has become much more popular in recent years, perhaps even surpassing the goatee style. There are two reasons for this: easy maintenance and social acceptance of the look in professional settings. The biggest challenge is making sure that the beard scruff remains approximately 1/4 inch in length, which isn’t difficult if you have a pair of adjustable clippers. Keeping the hair close is key because it will prevent the appearance of an unkempt beard -- and the possibility of revealing areas that don’t grow in evenly.
THE FULL BEARD
This style can be worn by anyone who is capable of growing a full beard evenly. Although a full beard can sometimes be an intimidating look, it has its advantages. It can make the face appear slimmer, and it can also alter the face into a more desirable shape, like a square or oval. But keep in mind that the slimmer the face (i.e., triangular, oblong, diamond shapes), the less full the beard should be (one-and-a-half inches thick or less), simply because a full beard can quickly overpower a smaller, narrower face.
The Van Dyke
The two most common goatee styles among all men are the musketeer and the Van Dyke. In the African-American community, however, it is the Van Dyke and the full Van Dyke. Men who like to be the center of attention tend to gravitate toward these styles because the beards are concentrated on the mouth area, leading the eye’s focus to the goatee’d speaker.
The Full Van Dyke
This style adds length to all face shapes, so it should be avoided by men who have longer faces (i.e., oblong) and pointed chins (i.e., triangular and diamond face shapes). You don’t want to make your long face even longer or bring attention to an already pointed chin.
THE CHIN STRAP
This is another style that requires confidence to wear, for one simple reason: It outlines the jawline. Of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with an outlined jaw unless there is a fuller face involved. A round face will always end up looking even rounder with this beard style. The same problem also occurs with rectangular, triangular and diamond face shapes. Oval and square faces work best with this style.
Craig the Barber is a licensed professional barber and men’s grooming expert, and a frequent contributor to Men’s Life Today. He owns the Los Angeles–based grooming service The Grooming Concierge, serves as a contributor to national magazines and television shows, and is the editor in chief of the daily blog The Men’s Room.