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“Winter is coming.”
At least that’s what I have told my coworkers since late July every time they asked me what was going on with my face. I decided to boycott the razor, stretch the boundaries of business casual and grow a beard. I’ve never grown a beard before. In high school, I was the kid who could go a week or two without shaving and you would never know. I didn’t consider letting the facial hair flow until my junior year of college. My university held a charity event where people put money in the jars of those they thought had the best mustache – ‘Stash Bash they called it. And you know what? I won. I was ‘Stash Bash King in 2012. It was a Cinderella story. Not to brag, but how many people do you know that have award winning facial hair?
*Removes hands from keyboard, leans back in chair and strokes beard*
Now I’m getting distracted by talking about my glory days. Anyway, I decided to grow out a beard. But why? Maybe I wanted to try something new, or I just want to survive the bitter Oklahoma winters, maybe I was growing tired of coworkers acting like I’m a kid because their children are my age or older, or maybe I have just been to too many hipster bars (I’m not a hipster. They just have a lot of interesting beers) lately and it’s rubbing off on me. Probably a mix of all of those.
If you are debating whether to grow one out, there are many problems you might face along the way. With the advice from my barber, I think I can help you out.
Laissez Faire, Laissez Hair
The hardest part is the beginning. That’s where the majority give up. It’s awkward and, for most, creepy as hell. I mean, parents are going to shield their children. You’re going to look like someone you don’t want to see alone in the parking lot at night. But hey, it’s totally worth it in the end, amirite? You have got to let your face do its thing, and that means putting down the razor for 2-4 weeks. Everyone’s face is different, so you can’t start shaping your facial hair and such until you know how the hair looks. You can shave the very bottom of your neck but make sure you have plenty of space for error once your beard really comes in. You don’t want to touch anything above the middle of your Adam’s Apple for a few weeks.
This might not fly if you work at a place that’s a little more strict about how you look. You have to lay low, maybe take a vacation, or you can plan to let a holiday help you out. Take Thanksgiving for example. Stop shaving on the Friday before, have a Netflix binge away from the world over the weekend, work a couple days, and take off Wednesday. Thursday is Thanksgiving and Friday is usually a day away from the office. That gives you a whole week with barely seeing anyone.
The Discomfort Is Real
A beard is like a wool coat that you physically cannot take off despite how uncomfortable it is. When you shave, you are making little, sharp spears on your face. As those hairs grow, they bend and basically stab you repeatedly. This creates some extreme irritation that you can’t help but to scratch tirelessly. You just have to keep your composure. The best thing you can do to get by is to put some face-friendly lotion on your face at night. That should repair any damage and alleviate irritation on your face.
Just like the rest of your body, you need to clean your beard regularly. You don’t need any expensive specialty shampoo or whatever crap is in the soap aisle at Target. Just use your regular shampoo, as long as alcohol is not at the top of your shampoo’s ingredients. The alcohol will dry out your skin and you’ll start to look like Allison Reynolds in The Breakfast Club as she makes it dandruff-snow on her drawing.
Like the specialty beard shampoo I just mentioned, a lot of products out there are pointless and a way to get more money out of your wallet. Facial hair hasn’t been “cool” in a couple decades now, and there are a lot of young people who can easily be tricked into buying something they don’t need. If you’re growing out a big beard, you might need beard oil, but most of us do not play professional baseball. No one should strive to grow a beard like former-Dodgers pitcher Brian Wilson. The only essentials you need are a standard comb and facial lotion. Unless you’re going for the untamed look, the comb is used to train the hairs to go a certain way.
Barbers Are Your Friends
Now that your beard has become an untamed monster, it’s time to do something about it. You could shave the neck, clip the lengthier bits, or buzz right over the whole thing, but that opens the door to all sorts of possible issues that could threaten the very thing you spent at least a month working on. Not all parts of your face are created equal, and I am not throwing on a standard guard size and hoping it all works out. No, I go to a professional. I do not mean SuperCuts. I go to a guy who is a certified Master Barber and is the owner of a pretty popular place in Midtown. A master barber should know all the ins and outs of cutting hair and will have no problem turning that unkept beast into pure art. Get to know your barber and go frequently. Give an above average tip every time. They’ll always make time for you.
That is basically it. Besides time, patience, and maybe some of your dignity, there’s really not much to growing a beard. The real question that has gone through everyone’s mind before deciding to go for it is – Is it worth it? Sure, you may look like the man who invented the wheel or a Civil War general, but it has its practical downsides. You’re going to be itchy as hell, you have to be extra careful eating food, drinking anything out of a cup basically turns your beard into a wet mop, and, if you’re single, there’s not a lot of middle ground in the female’s perspective. They either love it or they hate it. I have asked and I still ask that question. Maybe my decision will change once the cold Oklahoma wind comes sweeping into my face but, overall, the beard is a little overrated. If you decide to begin this facial rite of passage, good luck, my friend..
Image via Shutterstock