The beard, experts say, is a trend that’s here to stay
By Lola Augustine Brown
ou’ve probably noticed facial hair being sported by men of all ages. Beards are back and that’s that.
Calgary-based style expert and fashion stylist Crystal Mckenzie says that beards are a strong trend. A beard looks great, she says, as long as it’s kept in check and well-groomed.
“Today’s beards are clean-cut, and it’s definitely a manly look that can give a man’s face a lot of somewhat distinguished character. And beards aren’t that common on older men, so having one certainly sets a man apart from others and can be quite an interesting style statement.”
It isn’t just beards that have made a strong comeback in recent years: there has also been a grooming renaissance that’s resulted in a barbershop boom and hundreds upon hundreds of new men’s products on the market. This is in part due to the strong influence of shows such as Mad Men and the fact that style for men has become more culturally important over the past five years, says Ethan Song, CEO and co-founder of the Montreal-based men’s fashion retailer Frank & Oak, which has barbershops in its Montreal and Toronto stores.
As a result of that renaissance, men’s grooming products in the past few years have improved considerably. “There have always been low-end men’s products, but thanks to consumer demand, there are more complex and innovative men’s grooming products coming out all the time,” Song says. “We’re seeing the same research that has historically gone into women’s products now going into men’s products, too, and there’s a real desire for these high-quality products.”
Many women love the bearded look—there’s even a term to describe these fashionably hirsute men: “lumbersexual,” a more gruffly masculine evolution of the “metrosexual” label that thrown about in recent years. “It’s a trend that’s here to stay and it looks great,” Mckenzie says, “so why not go with it?”
GROWING IT IN
If you’re thinking about growing a beard, there’s an awkward stage that pretty much everyone has to go through to get great facial hair.
Paul Kaniewski, co-founder of Bluebeards Original (one of the first companies to offer specific beard-care products, beginning ahead of the trend back in 2005), says that while the early scruff is fine, the beard can get itchy after a few days of growth and doesn’t always look the way you’d like it to as it’s growing in.
But you needn’t worry about a beard ultimately not looking professional; that’s not how facial hair is perceived these days. Lots of high-level execs sport beards, and a well-maintained beard can look just as neat and tidy as a clean-shaven face.
“If you’re a little worried about how growing a beard will go over at the office, I suggest that you grow it out the next time you take a week-long vacation; you’ll skip the stubble phase and come back to the office with a more formed beard,” Kaniewski says.
Using the right products will help you through those early days of growth. Kaniewski developed his biggest-selling product, Bluebeards Original Beard Saver, to help deal with the itch, keep the beard looking managed and clean, and help fight ingrown hairs when he was growing-in his first beard.
“The key to having a beard that makes you look professional—as opposed to looking like somebody who is just on vacation—is to keep it looking styled,” he says. “It’s like the hair on your head—if you walk into work with bed-head, everyone will know it.”
TREATING IT RIGHT
Once you’ve grown-in a beard, you’ll discover that there are lots of great products to help it look good, the array of which can be a little confusing. Sven Hansen, founder of the Canadian men’s-grooming-product company Always Bearded Lifestyle, advises a three-step process to get your beard into shape.
First, use a beard shampoo to scrub your beard—a couple of times a week at most—and then use a beard oil to make it manageable. Follow this with a beard balm to seal in moisture and tidy up the beard—that is, control any unruly hairs. This may seem labour-intensive, but you’ll be rewarded with a lustrous beard that looks manly and well-kept instead of scruffy.
Hansen says that combing your beard can be very helpful for beard maintenance. “You really have to get down to the skin to exfoliate underneath the beard. This works especially well after a hot shower, when your pores are open. Combing your beard then is really going to help you style it.”
Although many companies offer beard-care products, these aren’t necessarily going to be available on supermarket shelves or at your local drugstore. Most major cities in Canada now have stores dedicated to men’s grooming, with welcoming and masculine shopping environments where you can sample all kinds of great stuff. There are also plenty of online retailers, and barbershops offer a range of products, too.
STYLING YOUR BEARD
Depending on your comfort level with a pair of barber scissors, you may be perfectly at ease trimming your beard yourself, but for those who aren’t, regular trips to the barbershop are a key part of maintaining that well-groomed look. In addition to the traditional barbershop, there are plenty of new varieties across Canada where getting a beard trim along with a sharp haircut is easy.
“This harkens back to the ’30s and ’40s, when men had more places dedicated to their grooming, and it’s providing a new-found and authentic pleasure for those who’ve never experienced that before,” Song says, adding that men of all ages and across a wide variety of demographics come to the barbershops at his stores.
Generally, visiting a barbershop isn’t expensive (even if the place looks trendy, prices are much more reasonable than those that women are expected to pay at their salons for even the most basic services) and can be a lot of fun. Some shops offer a coffee or even a beer with your service—and there’s a certain camaraderie that comes with hanging out in a dedicated male environment for an hour or so.
If you’re looking for a way to spruce up your image, growing a beard could be just the ticket. And, of course, if you don’t like it, getting rid of a beard is easy, so there’s no real risk to seeing how one works for you.