Grow it right and your facial hair will exude the kind of scruffy manliness that women love. Grow it wrong and you look like a tribe member from Survivor whose just woken up. No matter what your type is, here’s how to do it right.
The 5 O’Clock Shadow
What it means: You don’t have to be trapped in the cast of Lost to pull off scruffy. Girls dig the half rugged, just-rolled-out-of-bed look, to a point. “Fresh stubble is sexy,” says LeeAnn, 26, “but obvious 3-day-old stubble just looks like he doesn’t care.”
How to maintain it: Trim it evenly with a beard trimmer set on the shortest length. Trim at the same time each day for consistency, says Eric Malka, author of The Art of Shaving.
Who can rock it: David Beckham, and men with sparse beards, resident doctors, telecommuters.
What it means: “You might not crave attention, but you don’t mind a look or two,” says Phil Olsen, organiser of the 2003 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: Tom Selleck, Freddie Mercury, and guys with dark complexions, veteran policemen, security guards, impersonators.
What it means: “Goatees went from beatnik to gay to mainstream,” says Dr Peterkin. The good news is that you can wear one without getting fired; the bad news is they’re so ubiquitous that your boss might be sporting one, too. “For many, the goatee has become like the middle-age ponytail,” says Dr Peterkin.
How to maintain it: Shave with pre-shave oil only, so you can see where you’re cutting. “It will also prevent irritation from repeated strokes,” says Malka.
Who can rock it: Mickey Rourke, and men with receding or thinning hair, mid-30s professionals, Swedish metal bands.
The Soul Patch
What it means: While the patch was once popular with visionary artists like Shakespeare and Dizzy Gillespie, let’s be honest: Those were different times and different men. For some women, it’s hard to get hot for a look once dubbed the “flavour saver,” but the recent successes of certain soul patchers (like speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno) might change that. “It’s popular with cavalier, young guys,” says Bumble and Bumble hairstylist Vaughn Acord.
How to maintain it: Let it grow. “This style actually looks better after a few weeks,” says Acord.
Who can rock it: Sean Penn, and twenty-something extroverts, yoga instructors, guys who wear short (or no) sleeves to work.
The Full Beard
What it means: Beards are 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 Dr Peterkin.
How to maintain it: Keep a defined edge midway up your cheek, and shave your neck but not underneath your chin, Olsen says.
Who can rock it: Eric Bana, and chubby-faced men looking to simulate a strong jawline, graduate-school students, deposed dictators.