To Blunt the Razor’s Edge

November is National Beard Month—but before you stop shaving you’d better have a close look at your options. An explanation of common facial hairstyles, including notes on those best avoided.

There are many reasons to grow a beard—curiosity, whimsy, lowness of character among them—but once the decision to grow has been brooked, one must choose from a dizzying variety of styles. Nonetheless, fear not! As a comfort to the boggled, and following the scientific and philosophic rule that entities should not unnecessarily be multiplied, I’ve prepared a small list of common beard types.

Regular Beards

These are bland beards that eschew excitement: fine if you want to look like a Fisher-Price construction worker, bad if you want to score. A nice variation is the Miami Vice five-day growth (also called the “Indiana J.”), which offers a slightly edgy look, but risks associating its wearer with people who are—never mind the insistent, boozy reasons—irremediably stuck in the 1980s.

Long Beards

These are your basic Santa Claus/ZZ Top full-facial hair shafts. Wearers account for 35% of official Sasquatch sightings each year. The only variant is the “Devil’s Fork,” a long beard divided in two lengthy tines. From the neck up, the wearer looks something like a freakish gnome: a large head hoisted above two furry legs. Grotesque. See also the “Dimebag Darrell.”


Today’s beard of the realm. There are no standard constructions—only variations. The most common goatee, a uniform growth fully covering the muzzle, is the one sported by the average computer programmer and his ancestral twin, Sigmund Freud (Dze Schmall Bart). The “Handlebar and Chin Puff” variant belongs solely to Col. Sanders. The “Petit Goatee,” aka “Chin Scruff,” is worn by teenage skateboard punks, acne-pocked grocery sackers, and anyone else who can’t manage more than a small patch somewhere in the vicinity of their chins.

The Beard of Great Substance

Currently worn by Mel Gibson, it is traded amongst celebrities (see also: Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt) when they are encumbered in meaningful work and/or deeper than usual thoughts. Designed for stroking.

The Chin Curtain

The face is entirely clean shaven, save for a beard-like growth along the wearer’s jaw line. Traditionally reserved for Mennonites, it is unfortunately reminiscent of how an infant would look were it born through a merkin.

The Archipelago

The beginner’s beard: a sparse, mangy, wanton attempt at facial hair. Unidentifiable in color, it’s depressing for wearer, observer, and mate (if applicable). Best avoided.

The Beard of Confusion (Occam’s Beard)

Although Katie Holmes has recently raised the bar to practically immaculate heights (Scientology’s “thetans” = real-world midichlorians?), few versions match the Hail Mary chutzpah of Joanne Rio and Phyllis Gates. Liberace’s fiancé and Mrs. Rock Hudson (1955), respectively.

Mutton Chops

Mutant sideburns all puffed up and ready to burst across the face, these barely qualify as beards. Elvis springs to mind, as do many snapshots from 1970s-era yearbooks. The only varieties are “long” and “short.” The more daring of our fellows, however, like to stretch the boundary of mutton and bring in the moustache. This so-called “Chop-to-the-’Stache,” a line of hair along the top of the cheek connecting sideburns with a Freddie Mercury moustache, is a risky endeavor. Styled incorrectly, it risks making the wearer look as if he’s donned a horse bridle made of hair.