In the face of opposition from family and friends, or even personal doubt, the only way to find out whether or not a beard is for you is to grow one.
Tim is a close friend of mine and a regular beardsman in my barber chair. I owe much to Tim for his encouragement to become a barber, to open my own shop, his help in refurbishing the premises, and offering up his hair and beard to trial and experiment ideas. When I first met Tim he sported a goatee beard, now a full set.
WB. Tim, we’ve chatted about beards a lot and, for a few years now, you’ve let me loose with your beard every month. However, I’m not entirely up to speed with your beard back story. How and when did growing a beard start for you?
TM. As a much younger and newly married man some 21 years ago I realised I hated shaving. It hurt! I have a mole on my upper lip which I kept cutting with a wet razor, and an electric razor left me looking like I’d come back from a package holiday in Ibiza. I decided I was going to stop shaving. This was however not universally accepted and the new Mrs M said “No”. It was during a two week holiday when it was agreed I go unshaven. At the end of the holiday I shaved a goatee and said, “What about this?” “I like it”, came the reply, and that is the start of my beard.
WB. I’m guessing Mrs M has fully embraced the beard now.
TM. Mrs M is so pro-beard now I am forbidden to shave.
WB. As a barber, I hear from a number of men who’d like to grow a beard but face stiff opposition from their wife or partner. What would you say to men who are faced with this obstacle?
TM. Go for it, the very worst that can happen is you’re asked to shave it off!! A healthier, happier face is an attractive thing to behold. The time saved from not scraping your face to conform to norms is a bonus too.
WB. You’ve raised a couple of interesting points there. The first being a healthier, happy face; the second being conformity. Picking up on the second point, It’s interesting to carry out a little research into the history of beards and discover that, from a religious and political perspective, the freedom to grow a beard has often been stifled. Henry VIII, for example, levied a tax on anyone with a beard.
On your first point, there have been some unsubstantiated claims in the media these last few years about beards being unhygienic and unhealthy. These claims have been firmly rebutted and the evidence does support beards being healthy for the face.
On the subject of maintaining a healthy beard, tell me about your own routine in terms of soap/shampoo, beard oil, brushes etc.
TM. Keep it simple, wash thoroughly each morning with soap, towel dry then an application of top quality (Watson’s) beard oil. I use an organic and vegan soap, they are really moisturising and leave my beard feeling healthy. I’m not sure about looks but a cheaper soap makes the beard feel dry and unkempt. I give it a brush through with an oval military brush and that’s your lot.
WB. I remember encouraging you lose the goatee and go for a full beard instead. You took up the challenge but expressed a concern that the sides didn’t grow as heavy as the rest and considered returning to your previous style. What advice would you give to others who have similar concerns about their beard?
TM. I remember we had an ongoing conversation about my beard, me full of angst about a patchy, uneven and asymmetrical beard. Two things remain in my mind from those conversations. 1). It’s a marathon, not a sprint. I lacked the confidence that my beard would ever come good but now I’m glad your encouragement won out. 2). Find a barber you can trust. Now, I realise I had an existing friendship with your good self and trust was already there. I can’t stress the importance of finding a skilled barber that you can build a relationship with. I invest in a good gym and a good barber. This is, in my opinion, money well spent. It’s not just the skill with scissors or clippers but their advice and a set of eyes that isn’t trying to work only in a mirror, like a DIY attempt.