From dictators to boy bands, facial hair has long been a tool of male expression. Problem is, too many men go for looks they can’t pull off. “Whatever tribe he belongs to, a man’s face is his canvas,” says Dr Allan Peterkin, a pognologist, or beard scholar, and author of One Thousand Beards. Here’s how to get the right look.


The goatee

What it means “Goatees went from beatnik to gay to mainstream,” says Peterkin. The good news: you can wear one without getting fired; the bad: they’re sported by the likes of David Brent in The Office.

“For many, the goatee has become like the middle-age ponytail,” he adds.

How to maintain it Use preshave oil only, so you can see where you’re cutting. “It will also prevent irritation from repeated strokes,” says Eric Malka, author of The Art of Shaving.

Who can rock it Men with receding hair, 40-something professionals who still think they’ve “got it”, Swedish metal bands.

The 5 o’clock shadow

What it means You don’t have to be in the cast of Lost to pull off scruffy. Girls dig the rugged, just-rolled-out-of-bed look, to a point. Fresh stubble can be sexy, but the three-day-old look might signal that you just don’t care.

How to maintain it Keep your scruff even with a beard trimmer set on the shortest length. And trim at the same time each day for consistency, says Malka.

Who can rock it Men with sparse beards, Australian cricket captains, lazy men.

The moustache

What it means “You might not crave attention, but you don’t mind a look or two,” says Phil Olsen, former organiser of the World Beard and Moustache Championships. Look for ironic handlebars coming soon to a hipster near you.

How to maintain it Use an electric trimmer to get the proper length and a single-blade razor on the edges.

Who can rock it Guys with dark or olive complexions, veteran cops, Freddie Mercury impersonators.

The soul patch

What it means While the patch was once popular with visionaries like Shakespeare and Dizzy Gillespie, let’s be honest: those were different times and different men.

Some women find it hard to get hot for a look once dubbed the “flavour saver”. “It’s popular with cavalier, young guys,” says hairstylist Vaughn Acord.

How to maintain it Let it grow. “It actually looks better after a few weeks,” says Acord.

Who can rock it Twenty-something extroverts, yoga instructors, guys who wear short (or no) sleeves to work.

The full beard

What it means Beards are a bit of a mixed bag. Studies show women rate bearded men as more virile, but also less sexually appealing. “Men often grow beards during a period of transition or mourning,” says Peterkin.

How to maintain it Be sure to keep a defined edge midway up your cheek and shave your neck, but not underneath your chin, Olsen says.

Who can rock it Chubby-faced men looking to simulate a strong jawline, aspiring hipsters, deposed dictators.


Planning to rock some top-lip topiary for Movember? Here’s how to keep it in shape.

If you are going to use scissors, moisten your moustache hair and comb it straight down over your lips. Don’t force it to lie completely flat as it will return to its natural hair growth direction when dry, and you may discover that you have trimmed it too short. Using narrow, pointed scissors, trim outwards from the centre of your lip to each corner using a comb to gauge how much you trim away. Hold the scissors at a diagonal as this will give you greater control and ensure you keep to a straight line.

If you want a pencil-thin style or a very straight lower edge, use a clipper as directed below. Once your moustache is tidy and shapely, you can use the scissors to clip away any stray, long or unkempt hairs. Consider using moustache wax, especially for longer moustaches.

If you’re going electric, make sure your moustache hair is dry before you start. Comb it straight down over your lips. Comb away from the moustache hairline. Define the upper edge below the nostrils.

If you are going to wear your moustache with a beard, use your blending comb attachment. Make sure everything looks even.

If you only have a moustache, taper it as desired using a comb attachment and working your way from the centre to the corners of your mouth. You may also want to work downwards from the moustache’s upper edge to the rim of your upper lip, reducing the density of growth through its mid-portion. Find the lower edge using the comb and the electric shaver, taking care to trim gradually
and avoid slipping.

Edited extract from The Bearded Gentleman: The Style Guide to Shaving Face, by Allan Peterkin and Nick Burns

Got a mo? Check out our Movember portal for more tips and tricks

More from Men's Health